“What does serving our nation mean to you?”
For Papillion’s Brent Evanoff, the answer earned him the 2021 Celebrate Freedom Award from Freedom Mortgage, at a ceremony held on July 4 during the Wawa Welcome America Festival at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
The second annual essay contest was open to healthcare workers, first responders, and members or veterans of the U.S. Military. Evanoff checked all those boxes as a U.S. Army veteran, former Omaha firefighter and paramedic, and currently a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist for the Veterans Administration.
Audrey Shapiro, Senior Vice President of Public Relations for Freedom Mortgage, said Evanoff was her “hat trick.”
“I’m surprised and honored to be recognized by Freedom Mortgage with this award among so many well deserving applicants,” Evanoff said.
Chosen from over 1,000 essays, Evanoff and his wife, Caroline, received a trip to Philadelphia for the ceremony and a $10,000 prize. As an added bonus, it was also the couple’s 25th wedding anniversary.
“Just being honored at this event on stage in the courtyard of Independence Hall, where in 1787 the constitution was ratified, knowing the historical figures that stood there,” Evanoff said.
Evanoff’s essay reads:
“I have taken three oaths to the U.S. Constitution in my lifetime. First was when I graduated high school early and enlisted in the United States Army as a Cavalry Scout for three years. The second oath I took is when I graduated from the fire academy to serve as a Firefighter/Paramedic for the City of Omaha for 13 years. The third time I took the oath is when I chose to serve as a Nurse Anesthetist in federal service to the Veterans Administration.
“These three oaths to the U.S. Constitution are a testament to my lifetime of service to this nation (U.S. Army), its local citizens (Firefighter) and our veterans (Nurse Anesthetist at the VA). I believe service to the nation can take place at any one time in a person’s life or throughout their lives.
“I have chosen to serve the nation on multiple occasions because of the deep sense of duty. Duty to preserve the sacrifices of those before me (U.S. Army). Duty to protect the life and property of those in my local community as a Firefighter/Paramedic. Lastly, duty to care for those veterans who served before me, with me and after my service in the military as a Nurse Anesthetist at the Veterans Administration.
“My life has been in constant service to this nation in one fashion or another, but perhaps the most proud accomplishment is instilling this sense of duty to the nation into my children. I have three children who have served in the U.S. Military on active duty and, to me this is what it means to serve my nation now as a parent.”
Evanoff said members of his family have served in the military since World War I. He said he would like to see civic responsibility be as strong now as it was for his parents’ generation.
“It’s a chance to serve something bigger than yourself,” he said. “There are lots of places to serve. It builds character and a strong community.”