The following students and their essays placed in the annual Grundy County High School Bill and Mendia Patriotic Essay contest.
Gari Harshman: 1st place
I come from a long line of veterans, coming from all different branches of the military, which means I was taught from the very beginning to respect and appreciate each and every one of the men and women who so bravely fought, and still fight today, for our liberty. Without those men and women we would have nothing, and that’s why Veteran’s Day is so important to me. For me, and every other American, Veteran’s Day is the perfect day to show our love and support for those heroes. It’s a day that we can show veterans, past and present, how much we appreciate them.
Over time I’ve come to the realization that Veteran’s Day isn’t just about those who have served and had their time to be a hero, it’s about so much more than that. It’s about the men and women who so bravely risk their lives everyday, simply for the love of this country. It’s about those same heroes who have lost their lives fighting until their last breath for an American citizen that they have never met before. Veteran’s Day is about the great sacrifice that a person who doesn’t even know me makes everyday, so that I don’t have to.
The most important thing about Veteran’s Day for me is that it’s a time specifically set aside for people like me all over the country to remember those lost. My cousin Hunter Northcutt never got the opportunity to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a United States Marine; however, he lived as a Marine through his immense love for this country. Through his battle with Ewing Sarcoma and Leukemia, Hunter’s ever-lasting passion for serving this country taught me, and so many others in his life, what a genuine fight was. Not once did he give up on his dream, no matter the obstacles that faced him, and I can imagine that every other veteran fights each day with just as much courage and bravery as Hunter fought with. I know in my heart that Hunter was born to serve this country and I believe that each and every one of our veterans was born for the same purpose.
I can’t put into words how grateful I am that we have a day like Veteran’s Day to appreciate and support the heroes who put their lives on the line everyday for you and me. Veteran’s Day unites every American, no matter our differences and allows us to come together as a whole to love one another. I thank God for this wonderful day.
Kennedy Brady: 2nd place
While living our everyday lives, it is easy to forget the sacrifices millions of American soldiers made to ensure the ring of freedom across our nation. From the earliest of our nation’s history, brave men and women have fought for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. When we wake up in the morning, live throughout another day, and go to sleep at night, our soldiers are across the seas, away from the normality of our homeland, fighting to protect what we as Americans consider to be the foundation of our very being.
When I was in the fourth grade, I was asked to sing the National Anthem at our first home basketball game. I knew it was an important song, but at that age, I never knew why my mother always acted so serious about it, or why she made me thank people for allowing me to sing it. I didn’t understand the meaning of most of the words (I mean, what in the world is a “rampart?”). I continued to sing at every elementary home basketball game, and even some away games, until I was in the eighth grade. When I became a freshman, I started singing our country’s anthem at football, basketball, softball, and baseball games. I focused on holding the right pitch and hitting the high notes, and I didn’t ever stop to understand the meaning of the words I was singing; I couldn’t relate to them like I could Taylor Swift’s new breakup song or Carrie Underwood’s new single.
That all changed at a home basketball game my sophomore year. As I stood behind the score keeper’s table preparing to sing, I stared out into the crowd and was amazed by how many people were so focused on the stars and stripes. I, too, gazed at the flag, and I let the words and melody take over. As the song ended, the flag was rolled back up and the crowd cheered. But that night, I didn’t take notice of the cheering crowd. My attention was focused on one stranger.
From far away, he looked like any ordinary man. He was most likely in his 50s or 60s, with a stout figure and a balding head. I could tell by looking at him that he had seen a lot, more than the normal person. I’d even say he looked as if he woke up on the wrong side of the bed that morning. I thought I’d leave him be and slide past him to watch the game with my friends and family.
“Young lady, please come here.”
Of course, when I heard this stranger talk to me, I was startled. Maybe I had said a word wrong or offended him by not saying thank you after I sang. I slowly took steps toward him wondering where this conversation would lead.
“Young lady, I just wanted to tell you I have never heard that song sang so beautifully. I served back in the day, and the way you sang gave me chillbumps. That is what I served for. You’ve managed to make this old man proud. Thank you for singing that song the way you did.”
It was then that I looked down and noticed the medals pinned over his heart. I thanked the man for not only his kindness, but his service, and began to go sit with my parents. Tears started to make way down my cheeks. A veteran, a man who fought for my life and everyone else’s in that gym, told me he was proud of me. He was proud of me. I had touched a complete stranger in a way I never thought possible, and he opened my eyes so I could understand the meaning of every word I sang.
Ragan Meeks: 3rd place
Veteran’s Day is not just another normal day, and it shouldn’t be taken as one either. A veteran is not only someone who has served in the military, but a genuine hero. They are here to remind us of their service and what they have done, but also of all the soldiers who have gone to war and not returned home. Whether it be a family member, friend, or just someone you know, most of us are fortunate enough to know someone who has proudly and honorably served our country. Without them doing everything they have, we wouldn’t live in the peace that we are able to live in today.
I am personally beyond grateful for everything they have done, and still do for us. I have many people in my family that have served, and one person that is serving right now. There is no feeling like the pride that swells up in you, knowing that one of your own family members is serving the great country that we live in. It is honoring to know that when I lay down to sleep at night that he and all of the other sol-diers around the world, are standing guard in defense of our very own freedom.
With that said, Veteran’s Day is not just about thanking them for their bravery and actions, but remembering. If we didn’t remember, everything that they have done would have no meaning. No matter who it may be, even if you don’t know them well at all, thank them for their service. Maybe they won’t say anything back. Maybe they’ll just look at you and smile. Regardless of their reaction, it still needs to be said. At the end of the day they’ll remember it. Freedom comes with a great cost, and had to be fought for. If we fail to remember and recognize what they have done, and again still do, do we honestly deserve their protection? The answer is no, so I thank them and you should do the same.
Ed. note: Essays are printed as submitted.