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VFW Patriot’s Pen essay winners named

The 2014 winners of the Hastings Lyle Russell Post 1210 Patriot’s Pen essay contest are pictured here. From left to right are Margot Agen, Eric Howd, Nicole Reents and Kelsey Baker. Not pictured is Ana Spinler. Photo submitted

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton seventh-grade student Nicole Reents has won this year’s Hastings Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 1210 Patriot’s Pen essay contest. The winners were announced during the Veterans Day Mass at the school.

Other winners were Kelsey Baker, eighth grade, second place; Ana Spinler, eighth grade, third place; Margot Agen, sixth grade, fourth place; and Eric Howd, eighth grade, fifth place.

The Patriot’s Pen competition is open to students in grades 6-8. This year, students were invited to write a 300- to 400-word essay on the theme, “Why I Appreciate America’s Veterans.” The national winner will receive a $5,000 award.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is a nonprofit veterans’ organization composed of combat veterans and eligible military service members from the active, Guard and Reserve forces. Founded in 1899 and chartered by Congress in 1936, the VFW is the nation’s largest organization of veterans.

Her essay

Here is Nicole Reents’ essay on the topic of “Why I appreciate America’s Veterans.”

“The gratitude and respect that I have for our country’s veterans is truly incredible. I remember when I was younger and used to think that superheroes were the boldest and the bravest of all, but now I realize that our country’s troops are the real, true heroes. Freedom is never free, and our veterans are the ones who willingly pay the price.

“My uncle is an Air Force colonel. When he received the order to train pilots in Iraq, my heart sank. Just the thought of him not coming home was unfathomable. The first few months were going quite well. Until one day he was scheduled to go to a meeting. I thank God there was conflict that caused him to leave early, because little did he know that two minutes later, a terrorist would come in and blow up the building and kill everyone inside. He was responsible to contact the families on their loved one’s deaths and attend their funerals. This, he claimed to be the most difficult thing he had ever done.

“Our country truly couldn’t be what it is today without our country’s veterans. I have recently been thinking about the 13 colonies and how different our nation has become. The only reason our country has been successful in this changing is because of courageous vets. Even in the beginning of our country, troops fought for our independence and have never backed down.

“America’s veterans are some of the most important people in our nation! We sleep safely at night because of the tough men and women who stand ready to protect us against those who wish to harm us. My thoughts, prayers and thanks go out to all of our country’s heroes and she-roes for all that they have done to make our country as wonderful as it is today!”

Second-place winner

Kelsey Baker wrote an essay that earned her second place. Here is her essay:

“Why do I appreciate American veterans? Well, why are we free, why isn’t our country in destruction, why aren’t we afraid to go to sleep at night? This is because of veterans. There are many reasons I appreciate American veterans, knowing all they did for our country, but appreciating vets isn’t just about patriotism. It’s about thanking them, welcoming them, and respecting them, because we all know freedom is never free.

“I appreciate veterans because they went into a war, leaving their family behind, not knowing if they would return healthy, or even return at all. They risked their lives to defend the people they didn’t even know. They saw the death of their friends and had to deal with the grief on their own. Their lives were disrupted by the war, and they had to return home like nothing ever happened. Veterans are strong people in body and mind, but even long after the war some still suffer from excessive shock.

“My grandfather was a veteran who served in the Philippines in World War II. He was courageous, strong, brave, tough and he was protective of my family and others. These are all qualities of a great person who has been through the worst of the war, qualities of a veteran. The soldiers who have fought or who are currently fighting aren’t doing it for themselves, they are doing it to save the rest of us and maintain our freedom. This is another quality that I admire a lot.

“I appreciate anyone who has served because they are giving up their life and leaving their family to give us the right of freedom, something that not all people have. I want to thank the veterans; thank you for freedom, thank you for justice, and thank you for comfort. So, why do I appreciate veterans? I appreciate the American veterans because of the rights and securities that I now have and hope to keep forever.”