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Top 3 Essay Contest winner
Senior Master Sgt. Ara Shishmanian (right), 46th Aerial Port Squadron, bestows a $400 gift card to a fellow squadron member Master Sgt. Bryan Kahler March 5 on Dover Air Force Base, Del. Sergeant Shishmanian won the 512th Top 3 Essay Contest Feb. 14 and decided to donate his first-place prize, which was to be used towards the purchase of a mess dress uniform, to his unit's newest master sergeant. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Danella Shea)
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'Senior' sergeant gifts Top 3 prize to another Airman

Posted 3/8/2011   Updated 3/8/2011 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. Danella Shea
512th AW Public Affairs

3/8/2011 - DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del.  -- Senior Master Sgt. Ara Shishmanian, 46th Aerial Port Squadron, placed first in the 512th Airlift Wing Top 3's recent essay contest, winning a free mess dress uniform for himself or a Liberty Wing reservist of his choosing.

"When I found out I won, I immediately knew who I was going to give the prize to," said Sergeant Shishmanian.

He gifted his prize to a fellow aerial porter and the squadron's newest senior non-commissioned officer, Master Sgt. Bryan Kahler.

"I feel very privileged and lucky," said Sergeant Kahler, who sewed on his master sergeant chevrons in December 2010. "The mess dress is an expensive uniform, and I wouldn't even have considered buying it for myself if it weren't for (Sergeant Shishmanian) giving me his prize."

The 'senior' sergeant, who already owns a mess dress uniform, entered the contest without winning in mind.

"I didn't enter the contest expecting to win or because I wanted to be seen," said Sergeant Shishmanian. "I entered because I felt like it was an important topic for me."

The topic, "Why do veterans deserve our support, respect and understanding," specifically appealed to Sergeant Shishmanian following his unit's return in September 2010 from a deployment to Iraq.

He said he chose to write about the moment when he felt like he truly became a veteran.

"Entering the terminal, there was a line of veterans to shake our hands and welcome us home. I couldn't hold back the tears as men and women, many dressed in uniform, were thanking me," wrote the senior master sergeant. "That day, I too became a veteran, not just a service member; as I understood the greatest patriot is the one who demands nothing but the chance to serve his or her country."

Although the essay topic spoke to him personally, he said the contest was an opportunity for all Airmen and hopes the Top 3 continues to sponsor this kind of contest in the future.

"I feel like all of us, as Airmen, need to continually develop our skills, whether it's writing, public speaking or skills in our chosen career fields," he said. "I saw this as a great opportunity for me to grow."

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