Legion scholars thankful for family military service
The 2022 Samsung American Legion Scholarship recipients in Washington, D.C., Sunday, Feb. 26. Photo by Jennifer Blohm / The American Legion

Legion scholars thankful for family military service

The 10 national scholars of the 2022 Samsung American Legion Scholarship arrived in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the Legion’s Washington Conference to be recognized by American Legion Family members for their achievement.

During their stay Feb. 26-March 1, the scholars toured the National Mall and Arlington National Cemetery with Legion Family members, attended a special recognition dinner with National American Legion Commander Vincent J. “Jim” Troiola, National Sons of The American Legion Commander Christopher Carlton and Auxiliary President Vicki Koutz, and met with members of Congress on Capitol Hill with their respective American Legion department leaders.  

The 10 scholars were eligible for the Samsung American Legion Scholarship for their participation in either American Legion Boys State or Auxiliary girls state in 2022, being the direct descendant (or legally adopted child) of a U.S. military veteran, and for their academic achievement and community service.

The scholars each had a chaperone with them on the trip. While most were a parent, for Adam Dembicki of Fairfax, Va., it was his grandfather Richard Ault who made him eligible for the Samsung American Legion Scholarship.

When Ault’s daughter called and asked if he would come on the trip as Dembicki’s chaperone, he said, “’Oh I’m honored; yes, I’ll come.’ I was glad to come. I’m so proud of him,” Ault said of his grandson. “When my daughter told me he won the department (of Virginia) award and was up for the national one, I said ‘Oh my.’ And now he’s here. It’s very heartwarming,” said an emotional Ault. “It makes me feel good.”

The scholars toured the National Mall and Arlington National Cemetery with Legion Family members. It was the first time Ault had been to the cemetery. “To see something like that, all those graves. I know people that died,” said Ault, a member of American Legion Post 330 in Wapakoneta, Ohio, who served the Army Reserves during the Vietnam War era. “It’s just heartwarming. It hits the spot; it does.” And it was the first time Dembicki had been in D.C. with his grandfather who lives in Lima, Ohio.

“It’s something special,” Dembicki said of being in the nation’s capital with his grandfather and touring the monuments. “Without him, without The American Legion and Samsung, this opportunity wouldn’t have been possible. (The scholarship essay) wouldn’t be accepted without my grandfather.”

Dembicki will be attending St. John’s University in New York where he will play lacrosse. “I want to live a Christ-centered life and I want to make a difference in the community and other people’s lives so that’s why I chose the college.”

Jonathan Biering of Pinopolis, S.C., attended American Legion Palmetto Boys State where his three older brothers attended as well as his father. He has several late great-grandfathers who served in World War II and Korea who made him eligible for the scholarship and is thankful to The American Legion and Samsung for honoring their legacy, and for the opportunity to be in D.C. among fellow national scholars and Legionnaires.

“It’s been great meeting with Legionnaires and all the other recipients,” said Biering, who enjoyed touring the monuments with Legion Family members. “That was a really cool experience because you go to those monuments, you go to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Korean War monument, Vietnam and World War II memorials and you are there with people who served there or whose parents served there. It’s a really different feeling; it was more intimate.”

While saying goodbye to her grandfather before he passed in January, Rylie Fairbank of Hayes, Kan., was able to share that she was going to Washington, D.C., with nine other Samsung American Legion scholars. “I told him that I get to go to D.C. and have all these experiences because of the scholarship and because of him. He was really, really excited because I was a big part of his life. So he was excited and honored that that piece of his life was able to give me this piece of my life.”

Fairbank was 2 years old the last time she was in the nation’s capital. The opportunity to be here alongside Legion Family members and hear their connection to the war memorials has been meaningful, and it’s given her a new understanding of who the Legion Family is.

“Thank you so much for this scholarship and opportunity; it’s opened so many doors for me,” said Fairbank who is currently taking full-time college classes as a high school senior with plans to become a pediatric anesthesiologist. “It added a whole new aspect to my life, and it will forever change my life because of Samsung and The American Legion.”

The 2022 Samsung American Legion Scholarship recipients each received $10,000 for higher education. They  are:

Claudia Elliott of Alabama

Neal King of California 

Naomi Porter of California 

Kimberly Whitmore of Colorado

Andrew Bebbington of Delaware 

Rylie Fairbank of Kansas

Owen Fitzpatrick of Massachusetts 

Garrison Brown of Pennsylvania 

Jonathan Biering of South Carolina 

Adam Dembicki of Virginia