ALA Girls State experience leads to service to our nation and veterans

Posted On: Monday, 08 July 2024

In 2003, Mallory Showalter Churning experienced a week that would shape her future — an experience that would lead her to military service and a career assisting veterans. 

It all began when Churning’s high school counselor talked about ALA Virginia Girls State. As soon as she heard about the program, she made it her mission to get accepted. 

She fondly remembers the welcome she received from ALA members as she arrived at Longwood University to begin her week at ALA Virginia Girls State. 

“These ladies represented and embodied everything the American Legion Auxiliary stood for,” said Churning.

By the end of the week, not only did she have an increased knowledge of civic responsibility and government, she learned more about her family’s military connections.

“I applied for the coveted Samsung American Legion Scholarship — though I did not receive the scholarship,” Churning said. “Digging through old family records to find copies of DD-214s to support my application, I realized I came from an incredibly long line of veterans, going back at least five generations. After sitting through the impactful POW/MIA ceremony at ALA Girls State, I knew I was going to look at ROTC programs in college to carry on this family tradition.”

Churning completed Army ROTC during college and enlisted in the U.S. Army as a medic.

“Many of the volunteers and Auxiliary members I met from my week at ALA Girls State were my biggest champions through college and the travels the Army took me,” said Churning. “I was so confident in these choices after my experience as a delegate to ALA Virginia Girls State.”

She also credits the program for emphasizing the importance of helping others.

“In one of the many amazing speeches we heard that week, we were all challenged to go back to our communities and do something that would help serve veterans,” said Churning. “I came back and connected with my local VA hospital and state veterans home to find out what needs they had, and was told socks.” 

She then worked with her high school’s National Honor Society and created a service project called Sock Hop. To support the project, an event was created, and admission was a pair of socks. The socks were put into care packages for veterans. 

To this day, Churning’s service to veterans continues. After she finished serving in the Army, she began looking for a job with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. For the past six years, Churning has worked for the Veterans Health Administration, ironically, at the same hospital where she donated socks in high school. In her current position, she helps veterans get access and apply for benefits they may be entitled to.

“I wholeheartedly attribute continuing to serve veterans to my time at ALA Virginia Girls State as both a delegate and volunteer,” she said. 

Churning enjoyed ALA Girls State so much that she spent many years as a volunteer. She also met a lifelong friend who shared her love for the program.

“It was in the summer of 2004 that I met a fellow volunteer, Caitlyn, who has become my best friend,” said Churning. “For 10 years, we would go back to Longwood to volunteer as counselors.”

Churning said every time they get together, they reminisce about their ALA Girls State experiences.

“I would not be where I am at today if it wasn’t for ALA Virginia Girls State, both personally and professionally. The support and prayers I received from all the Auxiliary members I volunteered with gave me the confidence to take chances. While the days are oh so long for your week at ALA Virginia Girls State, the week is short, and the impact lasts a lifetime.”

ALA Mission

In the spirit of Service, Not Self, the mission of the American Legion Auxiliary is to support The American Legion and to honor the sacrifice of those who serve by enhancing the lives of our veterans, military, and their families, both at home and abroad. For God and Country, we advocate for veterans, educate our citizens, mentor youth, and promote patriotism, good citizenship, peace and security.