Local winners named in essay competition

When the Veterans of Foreign Wars asked students to write about “what patriotism means to me,” 11 Chapman School students in grades 6-8 took the challenge. 

Three of those students — placing first, second and third in the local competition sponsored by VFW Post 10221 in Anchor Point — were recognized at a special assembly at the school on March 7:

• First place, $300: Kyle Wells, eighth grade;

• Second place, $200: Julianna Johnson, seventh grade;

• Third place, $100: Ginger Inman seventh grade.

“VFW believes strongly in good citizenship and fostering patriotism. That’s why we encourage youthful minds to examine our nation’s history and their own experiences in modern American society through our Patriot’s Pen youth essay-writing contest,” said Jennifer Henley of Post 10221.

The competition is open to students in public, home school, private or parochial schools in the U.S., its territories or its possessions. The theme for the annual event is selected by the VFW’s commander-in-chief. 

A 300-400 word limit requires students to keep their writings focused. Entries were submitted by the Nov. 1 deadline, and then reviewed by judges selected by the post’s program chairman. Each essay was read by each of the judges, with points given for knowledge, theme development and clarity of ideas.

“In past years we have had as many as 69 entries,” said Henley. “Every year we head to our schools and present teachers with a packet of Patriots Pen Essay entry forms in hopes we have our youth participate. Not only are they given to our local schools, but they are also mailed out to villages.”

The contest includes four levels, beginning with the post. For every 15 entries at the post level, a first-place winner advances to a regional level. The first-place at that level advances to the VFW Department (state) level. First-place winners at the department-state level continue to national competition.

“We are already looking forward to this year’s essays to arrive,” said Henley, anticipating the 2014-2015 competition. 

This year’s theme is “why I appreciate America’s veterans.” 

“Look for this in your schools around August or the beginning of September,” said Henley.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.


Writing about what patriotism means to him, Chapman School eighth-grader Kyle Wells was awarded first place in the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10221 essay competition.

Patriotism by Kyle Wells

The dictionary says patriotism means the love for one’s country. I disagree. I think it is more than love. I think it is the willingness to defend, sanitize, rebuild and protect one’s country.

Since I was a toddler, my father was in the Army. When he would come home, he would tell me about the things he did in Turkey, Kuwait and Iraq. Listening to his stories of pride, risk and loss taught me what he was willing to do for his country. That is where I learned the meaning of patriotism.

As an American citizen I exercise my rights every day. Every day I exercise my rights of religion, press and speech. At school I give my opinions and I write essays stating those opinions. I exercise my right of religion by believing in a god and going to church on Sundays. I have never exercised my right of gathering in the sense of protesting, boycotting or rebelling. Every day millions of Americans look around and think of how proud they are to be an American, and how thankful they are to have the rights previously listed and others, which are listed in the American Constitution.

Millions of Americans each year celebrate the one holiday that shows more patriotism than George Washington wearing a red, white and blue suit. It’s Independence Day. For one whole day each year millions of proud Americans rejoice and celebrate the day that our great country gained independence from Britain.

Every day normal people show their patriotism without even knowing it. The U.S. Army deploys soldiers all over the world to help protect our country along with many others. We currently have hundreds of soldiers overseas, helping and fighting to keep our country safe from foreign invaders. We even have soldiers fighting to win a war over chemical weapons and mass killings. These men and women risk their lives to save our country. So that is what patriotism means to me.