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Why I Appreciate American Veterans Essay Winners

Chairman:  Bill Stramm (56)


2018 Middle School Essay Contest



  • Eligibility:
  • Open to all accredited Middle School Students at participating schools, Public, Private, or Parochial within the sponsoring jurisdiction of established American Legion Posts in the Department of Virginia. Home schooled children are eligible to compete provided the Division Superintendent, his/her assistant or other designated person of the public school system certify on the attached Declaration Form, the students grade level and their adherences to contest rules. It shall be the responsibility of the home schooler’s parents to contact the sponsoring American Legion Post and have the above certifications completed.
  • Rules:
    • Each essay MUST start out with the phrase: “I like living in America because…”
    • Each essay is to be hand written on the front side of one 8 1/2” X 11” page of lined notebook paper. Typed or computer generated essays Will Not be considered.
    • The essay is to be written by the competing Middle School Student at their desk in school (during structured class time if home schooled), not at home.
  • Judging:
    • Middle School – The competing schools Language Arts/English/Civics department will judge each entry on originality, sincerity and the student’s ability to convey thought. The Language Arts/English/Civics department may add such additional criteria as composition, spelling, and proper punctuation. ONLY ONE essay should be forwarded to the sponsoring Post!
    • Post Level – The winning essay from each Middle School will be mailed to the sponsoring American Legion Post contest Chairman (his/her name and address appear on the attached Declaration Form). It is suggested that each Post’s Executive Board/Committee or contest Chairman, with a committee of at least three judges, select the best essay. ONLY ONE essay should be forwarded to the District.
    • District Level – It is suggested that each District will convene a panel of at least three judges, chaired by their District’s Americanism or Essay Contest Chairman to select the best essay. ONLY ONE essay should be submitted per District.
    • Department Level – the Department Americanism Chairman will convene a panel of judges consisting of members of the Americanism Committee and/or other professionals, who will make the final selections.
  • Time Line:
    • Middle School/Home School – Each participating Middle School/Home School should mail their winning essay and declaration form to the Post Level Chairman whose name appears on the form no later than the last day of the Middle Schools classes prior to Christmas vacation.
    • Posts – Each participating Post will judge and mail their winning essay to the District Americanism Chairman or Middle School Essay Contest Chairman to arrive prior to their District’s Spring Conference.
    • Districts – Each participating District will mail their winning essay with attached Declaration Form to: Americanism Committee Chairman, Bill Stramm, 302 Arnies Loop Cape Charles, Virginia 23310, to arrive no later than March 1, 2018. Winners will be announced at the Department Spring Conference.
  • Awards:
    • Post Level:
      • Each Middle School Language Arts/English/Civics Department which sends a winning essay to you receives an American Legion “Certificate of Participation” signed by the Post Commander and the Post’s Essay Chairman.
      • Each winning essay student at the Post Level is presented with an American Legion “Certificate of Appreciation” signed by the Post Commander and the Post’s Essay Chairman.
      • The winning essay student’s teacher receives a check from your post in the amount of $25.00 to be used to assist in his/her purchase of classroom materials.
    • District Level:
      • The winning essay student from your District receives an American Legion “Certificate of Appreciation” signed by your District Commander and District Americanism Chairman or Essay Contest Chairman.
      • The winning essay student receives a $50.00 check.
      • The winning essay student’s Language Arts/English/Civics teacher receives a $50.00 check to go toward assisting in purchasing supplies and materials for their school’s department.
    • Department Level:
      • The First Place Winner will receive a $250.00 check.
      • The Second Place Winner will receive a $100.00 check.
      • The Third Place Winner will receive a $50.00 check.
      • $50.00 check to winning essay student’s teacher

Voice of Democracy essay winner:

Our hope for the future

By AshLee Kearney

Throughout history people’s ideas and visions have shaped America into what it is today. Famous American actor Robin Williams once said, “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”

I believe that there is hope for our future that when more people talk about their ideas the more we will be united as a country. By putting aside our differences and coming together, we will have the start of a stronger country.

President Lincoln believed that for a better country we needed to move away from slavery. Not all of Americans agreed with him, which led to the civil war. His steadfast belief and stance against slavery eventually led to the abolishment of slavery. Another person that made drastic changes not only for America but for the entire world was President Ronald Reagan. He believed that the world would become a better place if the Soviet Union would tear down the wall dividing East and West Germany and reunite the country. With continual pressure upon Mr. Gorbachev, he was eventually able to convince the Soviet Union to take down the wall.

What makes our nation great is that you don’t have to be in a high position to make positive changes in America or your local community. Helping out in your community like volunteering to visit the elderly, donating to the food shelf, giving blood, and helping out at churches are all positive approaches for the betterment of our community. If we begin to work together and “give more than we take,” we can become an example to other people in our community and hopefully they will follow this example.

I opened this essay with the statement with ideas and visions have shaped America. But not all ideas and beliefs are beneficial to America. Recently one of the protests that has been going on is about police officers misusing their authority, which has created the Black Lives Matter movement. Today you see some people rioting, looting, and committing crimes under the guise of protest. When your beliefs infringe on the rights of other people or harm them, then at that point their actions have become criminal. I believe these people have the right to have their voices heard. However, they should express how they feel in a respectful way.

If we work together and listen to others’ ideas, we can resolve issues and make changes for a better America. To do this we must be able to compromise and be willing to negotiate a positive outcome. Each one of us are here for a purpose and I believe it’s to make our mark on the world and if we don’t try to work together, we can’t make changes.

My hope for America’s future is that we can find a way to heal. Like me, so many people are tired of the unrest in America and are looking for a way to make peaceful changes. If we all take responsibility for our actions and remain good citizens, I believe we can make America even better than it is now. I believe that if we live by the motto “I can do it – I will do it,” then the sky's the limit.

Patriot’s Pen essay winner:


By Blaise Sanford

Protection, thanks to American veterans, is America’s gift to my generation at a cost of $601 billion annually, and is one of the gifts I have as a citizen in this great land. There are Americans that don’t even think about how protected we are from those who seek to do us harm. Thanks to veterans who risked their lives for us every day.

We are protected by people like Austin Burton, a 2015 Aitkin graduate, who chose to put his future aside to protect us by becoming a soldier. Austin Burton was just an ordinary kid who loved football. His experience in football helped mold his life.

In the small town of Aitkin, Minnesota, there is an annual lift-a-thon to fundraise money for our veterans. We call it Strength and Honor. Strength refers to the kids who lift as much weight as possible two nights in a row. In this way, they “Honor” our American veterans.

To raise money for the veterans in Aitkin, lift-a-thon enthusiasts walk around town and ask people if they will donate to the event. While walking around town, Austin encountered a woman who wanted something for her donation. “What’s in it for me?” she asked. Austin didn’t know how to respond, so he said nothing.

Later, he asked my dad, who was the head football coach and the person who created Strength and Honor and also served in the Army Reserves, what he should have done. My dad made a big deal about this question to all of our lifters. That morning in the gym, my dad explained the situation to the lifters by asking about 200 kids in our lifting program, “What’s in it for this woman?” When no one responded loud enough to be heard across town he yelled, “What’s in it for that woman?”

Then someone whispered, “Freedom?”

“You are darn right freedom. I have something to tell you,” said my dad as he held back tears. “Freedom isn’t free.” From that time on those words became important to all of the sports programs in our community who work to support our veterans. The words were even on the back of many team shirts. America has given my generation a lot of Austin Burtons, the men and women who unselfishly give of themselves to keep the younger members of our generation safe.

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