News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Sisters student honored for essay

On Thursday, December 10, the Sisters VFW Post 8138 presented the 2019-2020 Voice Of Democracy award to Anna R. Mensing. Anna was presented a letter of achievement and commendation as well as a check for $400 in front of Sisters High School to comply with COVID-19 requirements.

Bill Anttila reported that “Masks were removed in 38 degree temperatures with a deep breath to take the photo.”

This is the second year in a row that Anna, a senior, has won this prestigious award.

Mensing’s essay follows...

The incredible impossible

By Anna R. Mensing

My fingers flip through the silky pages, pausing briefly to read a few excerpts from the inky engravings on paper.

“Darling Elra:” one of the pages reads, “Today autumn’s coat of many colors is covered with a fleecy mantle of fresh snow.” This opening line is from a letter from my great-grandfather, Russell Prohl, to his wife, Elra.

The book in my hands is a collection of the hundreds of letters written between them during WWII. This specific letter dates November 9, 1944, and was written in Belgium.

Russell, was deployed in the U.S. Army as a military chaplain from 1942 to 1945.

“The lights are about to go out!” His letter concludes.

“May I take you with me to dream land? Love, Russell.”

One hundred and seventy-six years before my great-grandfather fought in WWII, our founders witnessed a victory of their own — the founding of our country.

They had fought through ideas and concepts for hundreds of days to form what would become our constitution.

It’s hard to imagine their excitement, their worries, and their hopes as they theorized what would become of this country.

How would we have felt if we were in their shoes? What would we have imagined to be the next steps of our nation? Would our founding fathers have imagined my great grandfather standing on a battleship near the beaches of Normandy praying for the souls that now fled to land? Impossible.

I believe it to be impossible for anyone to conceptualize the things our country has overcome and accomplished.

Impossible for anyone to consider the growth, the change, the triumph and the loss we would endure.

Impossible for our founding fathers to envision the country we would become.

Take for example August 18, 1920, when women across America celebrated the ratification of the 19th amendment: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on the account of sex.” On July 26, 2016 Hillary Clinton became the first female presidential nominee on a major political party ticket.

Before her, Rosa Parks, Amelia Earheart, Ruth Bader Gisberg, and many other eminent women would play a part in the evolution of a woman’s place in America; the fight for an equal place in America.

Did our founding fathers envision these legendary women taking part in historical change and growth? Impossible.

Women would play a part in the evolution of a woman’s place in America; the fight for an equal place in America.

Did our founding fathers envision these legendary women taking part in historical change and growth? Impossible.

On March 25, 1965, Martin Luther King Jr. led and marched alongside thousands of nonviolent protesters from the streets of Selma to the capital of Montgomery, Alabama. June 6, 2020, hundreds of thousands of Americans in over 550 cities raised fists to rekindle the Black Lives Matter movement. It is astounding what can be accomplished when we walk together fists raised. It’s astounding the change we have seen in the history of civil rights and the steps taken to a better future for all. Did our founders envision this evolution of culture? Impossible.

On December 7, 1941, the skies cried as hundreds of Japanese planes descended on the U.S. Naval base of Pearl Harbor, throwing America into the Second World War.

Tens of millions of lives would be lost and mourned.

America would never be the same.

My great grandfather, Russell, was one of those men fighting, not only for our country, but for what he believed in.

On August 9, 1945, Russell wrote “My Darling: The best news is thrilling when simply told.

When you receive this I should be on my way home.” I consider my great grandfather a hero, and I consider myself blessed that he was one of the few that got to return home.

But nonetheless, war is a simple sign that Americans will never stop fighting for what we believe in.

Did our founding fathers imagine this triumph? Impossible.

One of my favorite passages from the letters between my great-grandparents is one where Russell describes his goals after the war. Among other things he writes “I plan to lend a helping hand to those who have been fighting so valiantly for ‘my brother of another color.’ I want to awaken the church to recognize the ‘problem’ of the overage of women in the next 25 years as a blessing that can be used to the glory of God and the salvation of blood-bought souls.”

My great grandfather didn’t get to see MLK march across the bridge at Selma.

He didn’t get a chance to vote a female president into office, but he did use his abilities to better America as much as he could.

In this letter he writes: “My ambitions may take me anywhere,” which I take to be a mantra that captures just how much potential is ingrained in the mechanics of our country.

I believe there is no possible way our founding fathers could have envisioned our country today.

We are so much more than anyone could have expected.

We are capable of overcoming adversity, accomplishing change, fighting injustice and pursuing victory.

We will never stop pushing for a better future for all, and we will never stop pressing on to the country we all hope for.

We are a nation impossible to envision, but incredible in our accomplishments.


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