Features ~ Sonoma Valley Sun


Young writers explore democracy, patriotism

Posted on February 9, 2012 by Sonoma Valley Sun

Is There Pride in Serving in Our Military? Are You Proud of Your Country? These were the topics of a national writing contest for youth organized locally by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Sonoma Post 1943.

The winners of The Patriot’s Pen competition were Annie Greenslade and Jacob Paine. Alvaro Pulida placed second, and Brenda Maldonado third.

In the Voice of Democracy category, open to high school students, Eugene LaHaye took top honors, followed by Linaya Dinoto and Annick Adams. All the top finishers read their work at the recent VFW awards banquet. The first-place finishers advances to the regional level

Local VFW Post Commander Dan Parker said participation had increased over last year, and cited the efforts of teachers Justin Hollander, at Altimira, and Janet Hansen, at the high school.

The competition was very close, Parker said. “I was impressed by how the (students) showed a capacity to think for themselves and how well they were able to convey those thoughts.”

Parker said the annual essay contest is part of the post’s effort to provide opportunities for children to learn, excel, and become responsible members of the community. “I am very pleased we as a post are doing this,” Parker said, “and even more so that people out in the community are embracing our programs.”

The Little, White Box and the Flag that Lies Inside
Eugene LaHaye,
Sonoma Valley High School

Eugene La Haye

When we were young, my brother and I were given a little, white box by our grandmother. Inside that box was a flag. Neatly folded, I’m sure, adorned with large stripes and little stars. I don’t know where that box is today. I have not seen it since my visit to my grandmother’s so many years ago. I have never seen the flag ever blowing in the wind or even unfolded at all. Honestly, I’m not even sure that I saw the flag when it was still folded up, inside the little, white box. I might have just been shown the box and been told “There is a flag in this box.” I like to think that my parents still have the box, smartly tucked away behind the many jackets and ties in their closet. Because, some day,

I would like to see that little, white box, and the flag that lies inside, again. Just to know that my Grandpa George really did serve in the war. Because, I am proud of that little white box and the flag that lies inside. I am proud of my Grandfather, although I never knew him. I am proud of my Grandfather because he served in the military.

People die everyday. But what separates the soldier from the tinker or the tailor or the sailor is that he does not coward from the shadowy hand of death. He meets him face on, marching to his doom. He marches for his country and he marches for his people. He is above death. Not in body but in spirit. And though he may not live to see the set of the sun, his memory survives incessantly. He is immortal inside.

A tear will always spring from the deep wells within my eyes whenever I hear William Shakespeare’s Saint Crispin’s Day Speech; men bear their scars without shame and when one looks upon the flags blowing to the hymn of the wind above the beach of Omaha and the field of Gettysburg he does not scorn or turn his back but smiles, broadly.

My grandfather did not fight in World War II. He baked bread. He baked bread in the war because he baked bread when he was not in the war. He baked bread because that’s what he could do. Yet I do not wait to see his oven mitts or his apron. I wait to see his flag. The flag he was given for his service in the war. Because Grandpa George was not just serving in the war; he was not just serving in military; he was not just serving to kill his enemies across the seas or to show up the other young man next door. He was serving his country; he was serving his people; and he was serving family. He was doing what was right. What people will remember for years upon years to come.

There is pride in serving in the military. The soldier may kill men, or he may save men, or he may simply bake bread, but he can do it proudly. And when years have passed and his body has decayed, his children and his children’s children will still wait to see that little white box and the flag that lies inside.

American Pride
Annie Greenslade,
Alta Mira Middle School

I’m proud to be an American for so many reasons. We are guaranteed theright to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. What that means to me is freedom. Because of our freedom, women have equal rights, we have diverse food and cultures, and we have a country that has strong humanitarian beliefs. After all, we are America the “Land of the free and the home of the brave.”

For all of us girls out there, America is an incredible place. We have all the rights that men have, even though many other countries don’t. Some other countries don’t even let women drive! (How in the world do kids get to their soccer practices?!) In the U.S., women are respected so much that they can even run for president if they want to. There’s no guarantee they’ll win, but at least they can try! Also, we have the right to wear any style of clothes that we want, and show the world our amazing faces.

When you’re looking for somewhere to eat, where do you go? Is it Panda Express, a steakhouse, a pizza place, sushi or the local Mexican restaurant? When you’re in America you are lucky to have all of these choices. You should thank all of the different cultures and people who we respect for your favorite foods and eating establishments! When different cultures are respected and treated nicely, why wouldn’t they exchange recipes and traditions? Thanks to all these recipes, America is known as a giant ‘Salad Bowl.’

A third reason why I’m proud to be an American is our humanitarianism and generosity. We have so many opportunities to help people in other places who are less fortunate. For example, last Sunday my church and I helped make 10,000 meals for children who otherwise wouldn’t have had anything to eat. We did this through an organization called “Stop Hunger Now”. These types of organizations are all over the United States and people choose to take advantage of them every day.

In conclusion, everybody in America should be proud of our amazing country. We have equal rights, feel compelled to help others, are diverse and have lots of mouthwatering food! So, no matter what you look like or believe in, in America you have the right to life, liberty, and the chance to follow your dreams. After all, America started out as a dream.

Proud of My Country
Jacob Paine,
Altimira Middle School

I am immensely proud of our country. Our patriotism, honor, courage, and bravery are what make us what we are today. Our country’s freedom and liberty are unalienable. I am proud of all our founding fathers, soldiers, and all of our sacred heroes who sacrificed their lives to preserve our country’s free and righteous people.

Our country was formed by our courageous men and women who fought against all odds to win our liberty. Today we strive for, adore, and honor our freedom. I am enamored by what we believe in. We have written the Declaration of Independence and we have obtained our freedom from the British. Through intense struggles, perplexing debates, rebellious actions, and the love for freedom, have attained what no other country ever has.

Our country is one of integrity and honor. We, as a people, may seem extravagantly different, possibly even bitter opposites at times, but we always set our differences aside to recognize what we are. We band together to stop the unstoppable, move the unmovable, and change the unchangeable. We are a body of sincere, willed people. We yearn for freedom more than any other. As quoted by Patrick Henry, “Give me liberty or give me death.” This quote defines our country as an undivided whole.

What is freedom? Is freedom being allowed to speak freely? Is freedom having your own firearm? Is freedom being to go to school? You define freedom yourself. To believe what you want, do what you want, and think what you want. That is the true and divine beauty of our country. Our freedom is what defines who we are, and that is what causes me to be enamored with our country. If our country was not free, what would we be? What would our country have become? Would we have been the thirteen colonies on the east coast of New Great Britain? I thank all of our honorable heroes who have prevented such events from happening every day.

When I visualize or see the American flag, my heart swells with pride of our country and of our country’s freedom.

Our bravery, courage, patriotism, and honor are matched by no other, but the most spectacular and outstanding characteristic of our country is freedom. I, as a patriotic American individual, am unspeakably proud of my country. I am proud. I am free. I am American.

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