There used to be a saying that was often said without much controversy: “The pride of America.”
The VFW of the United States of American annually holds writing contests for students and allows them to exaggerate on this statement with a selected title. This one was, “What Makes America Great?”
The National VFW website states, “Working alongside America’s youth and instilling a sense of patriotism has always been – and will always be – a VFW priority.”
The Veterans of Foreign Wars throughout the United States annually hosts local competitions in middle and high schools, challenging students to submit their writings on Patriotic subjects. The competition is “dedicated to encouraging a better understanding and appreciation of America.”
The two writing contests are The Voice of Democracy for high school students in all four grade levels and The Patriot’s Pen Essay for sixth through eighth-grade students.
The winners compete locally and the first-place winners take home a $75 check while second-place winners earn $50 from Craig VFW Post #4491 and then compete in District where first place participants win a $200 check. Those select winners go forward to State for a chance to share in scholarships and awards between $500 and $1,000.
Ninth graders Ethan Martin and Gavin Shires placed first and second respectively in local Voice of Democracy. Martin also placed first overall in the district.
As Martin received his certificate from Craig VFW Post 4491 Commander Billy Lee, he shared that he had thought about going into the Marines. Lee overheard him and with a big grin said, “All right.” Martin then finished his sentence, “or the Air Force to be a Black Hawk pilot.”
Martin started a summer youth volunteer job at the V.A. in Salem and has continued to work there once a week. His dad works with the V.A. Police Department.
“I see a lot of Veterans and I love history. I think it’s awesome because there are a ton of Veterans that have so many war stories,” Martin said.
Martin’s great-grandfather was in WWII. One “grandpaw” fought in Korea and another was stationed in Alaska. Martin’s dad served in the Air Force.
Last year, Martin also earned first place in the Patriot’s Pen local competition and first in the district.
Gavin Shires took placed second in local and has also participated for several years. His sister served in the Navy.
McKenzie Lucas, Kammie Fisher and Kallie Fisher entered the Patriot’s Pen with the encouragement of their English teacher, Olivia Lee.
Lee found out about the contest through Principal Whiting and teacher Jeannie Guthrie as well as having Commander Lee speak to her class.
Said Lee, “I encouraged students to participate in this wonderful contest by simply stating, ‘You are the future of our beloved New Castle and country. Now is the time to show that spirit and take ownership of your education.’”
Guthrie added, “Makenzie Lucas took on the challenge and worked diligently for weeks crafting her essay. She is a model student and is sure to make Craig County Public Schools proud in her bright future.”
Lucas, who placed first, said, “I really like to write stories and poetry, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to practice.”
Kammie and Kallie placed second and third respectively and shared that they both enjoy writing.
Students are encouraged to enter the contest to share their viewpoints. They have a voice and the VFW of American wishes to not only encourage, but support that avenue of freedom, which they selfishly fought for.
“We are proud of these students for stepping up and submitting their writings,” Lee said before adding, “We hope more students compete for this year’s awards.”
Lucas and Martin’s writings will be in the next issue of the New Castle Record.