|VFW State Convention 2000
|On July 13, 2000, my 12th birthday, I got to honor my hereos and speak at the VFW State Convention. I got to spend most of the day with the great Veterans and Ladies Auxiliary members who were there and also with Miss America. It was one of my best birthdays yet! Meeting both Presidential Candidates by my 12th birthday!
I had the second opportunity of my life by being able to put another letter about the promises made to our Veterans and that we must bring our POW/MIA's home now, in Gov. George W. Bush's hand and I got a response to this one!
|By Harley McCullough
Nikki Mendicino celebrated her 12th birthday by honoring the sacrifice of Americans missing in action and calling for the release of any prisoners of war.
"I am very sad that they did what they were supposed to do and, for that, they paid the price of freedom," she told the state convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Thursday in Green Tree.
Nikki, daughter of Daniel and Michelle Mendicino of Springdale Borough, is known by veterans nationwide for her activism. She visits veterans at Veterans Affairs hospitals, speaks and appears at veteran and POW/MIA-related events throughout the state and operates a Web site.
On Memorial Day, she gave a speech at the Reflecting Pool in Washington, D.C.
About 250 veterans listened to Nikki's passionate words, which are compelled by something she can't exactly explain.
"It's just something I have to do," said Nikki, who will be a seventh-grader this fall at Transfiguration School in West Deer.
In shorts, a cap and a jacket covered by pins and badges, she stood behind a podium three times as wide as her body.
"When I learned people were left behind, it just didn't seem fair," she said. "I decided I have to do something about it."
While she wants to become president someday, she has a celebrity's schedule now with appearances and speeches a couple of times a month. The attention is fun, but Nikki remembers she isn't doing this for herself.
She has enrolled in a program called Operation Just Cause, in which she "adopted" eight soldiers missing in action in Vietnam. People who adopt soldiers pledge to "learn about them and pray that they come home," she said.
| Nikki's interest in veterans began when John Kridlo, a World War II veteran who now resides at Southwest Veterans Center in Oakland, spoke at her school about veterans' issues. Now, she visits him at least twice a month.
A gift from Kridlo, his military dress jacket from World War II, is Nikki's "most prized possession."
|Michelle Mendicino is sure her daughter, with honor roll grades and "a big heart," can handle the responsibility she has taken on.
"I've always told my children to stand up for what you believe in," she said.
Nikki has a twin brother, Nathan.
Veterans who heard her speech said they're counting on Nikki and other young people to keep the fight for POWs, veterans rights and their values alive for the next generation.
Jack Grace, a member of Post 691 in Drexel Hill, near Philadelphia, said Nikki's message is important because soldiers' sacrifices were worthless if they are taken for granted.
"If they don't know the history and appreciate the history, it was for nothing," he said.
|First, here's an article that appeared in the TRIBUNE-REVIEW...|
|This was the sign that we saw when we entered the convention room...
What a surprise this was to me!!!!
|Here was another surprise!!! Miss America was there too! She sat with us and I got to spend most of the day with her!!! This is when they escorted her to the stage.|