The Patriot’s Pen is a contest for middle-school students, sponsored by the VFW. This year, students at Estancia Valley Classical Academy in Edgewood took the top three spots with their essays on the topic, “Why I Honor the American Flag.”

Another student at the charter school, Avery Kraus, submitted an audio essay, “Voice of Democracy.”

Ernest Attebery is the VFW chaplain. He said the entries are stripped of school affiliation, the students’ names, and anything else that could identify them before judging. The winning essays were picked out of about 40 entries, he said.

Winners move on to the next level of competition, with winners at the national level receiving a $15,000 scholarship.

Kyndal Wiltbank got first place and a check for $85; Zachary Pagillo placed second and got a check for $60; and Zander Pomme got third place and $35. Kraus got $50 for her winning audio essay.

All of the students are in Anne Hutchinson’s 6th-grade class except for Kraus, who is a junior in high school at EVCA.

The point is to “make these children aware of our country,” Attebery said.

The local group, Ike Cole VFW Post 3370, has ongoing membership recruitment, Attebery said, adding that there are as many reasons to join as there are veterans. He said the primary goal of the group is to help veterans.

To learn more, contact VFW3370@gmail.com.

The winning essays are below.

Why I Honor the American Flag

By Kyndal Wiltbank

Every American living in the U.S.A. knows what our flag looks like, and the amount of diligence it took to create the cherished red, white and blue emblem of our country. Because people are unique and different, we all have separate opinions. As an American who loves my country and flag, I have my own opinion. There are a few ways we pay homage to the American flag and to valiant soldiers like George Washington, who fought and died willingly for a free country.

First we sing songs, such as “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” and our national anthem. Second, we say the Pledge of Allegiance across the country. Those are ways to honor it, but why do I honor it? Our founding fathers created this country. Many rich and poor men fought for our freedom. They shed their own blood and died for us. To me, that is something very special. So, in order to honor these brave and selfless men, we honor our noble flag, who were there the day we won freedom. If the flag saw that, it can almost reflect it. It shows and tells of what loss of family, comrades, life and the sacrifice it took to achieve our freedom.

The Fourth of July is the day we pay the most amount of respect and homage to the flag. Think about this. The flag is our life. The flag is there with us every day, symbolizing who we are as Americans. The flag is very important. The flag is a symbol of valiance, freedom, hope, and liberty. Since all of these things are important, the flag is for sure something worth honoring and cherishing deeply. Something worth being proud of. Something to honor from the deepest depths of our hearts. Something to love.

Now, more than ever, I am realizing what the flag really and truly means to me. When you say the pledge, don’t say it because you know it. Say it for real. Say it because you mean it. Pay attention to the words. It’s not just there for show. It’s there so you can honor it. That is why I honor the American flag.

Why I Honor the American Flag

By Zachary Pagillo

I pay homage and honor the American flag because of all the valiant men living or dead have comrades and even family members. The flag represents everyone that fought in the Civil War so that everyone in the future can be free.

The American flag also represents the flag’s colors because of what they represent. During this war men held our American flag high and declared that we should be a free country.

I ponder about how I can help the men who died for us. I would spread freedom and the flag. The flag means a lot to me. I will always remember what the flag means today. I respect the flag every day. I sing songs like the national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner,” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.” Our ancestors have fought for us raising the flag. Our freedom is a gift from the flag. The flag to me is a symbol of truth and freedom, even in the darkest times. The flag has multiple meanings; freedom, truth, liberty, and justice. We need to accept what the flag has given us; a chance to make this country better. We have taken that chance and now we are free from slavery and injustice. I will always remember what the men did for us, what they did for the flag. We all should know that our freedom did not come naturally, it comes from hard work. The flag is not something to toss away. It’s something to cherish, to love. If we just toss it away we disrespect why the flag is important, we disrespect everyone who fought in this war, including our ancestors. If we didn’t have this flag, our country would have no freedom. We would still have slavery. When you next time sing to about the flag, think about why you can today. Why all of us today can almost do whatever we want. The flag is something to be remembered. If you toss the flag away, you hopefully don’t now. Our flag is important, no matter where it is. The flag to me is not to be ignored. I pay attention to it every morning. Our states are slave free. Our flag is the center of freedom.

Why I Honor the American Flag

By Zander Pomme

I pay homage to the flag because my grandpa fought in WWII and flew suicide missions and he could have lost his life. Another way I pay homage to the flag is I say the Pledge of Allegiance, and I put my hand over my heart when I say the pledge to honor all the men and women that fought for our freedom, and died for our country. I also think it is disrespectful to not look at the flag when you say the pledge because if I never looked at the flag when I said the pledge I would be disrespecting the flag and would never really “pledging my allegiance.” Also, the flag represents our country and no matter what happens we will never be divided and will never give up. Also to me the flag represents freedom that will never be taken away and will always be ours.

I think it is also disrespectful to let the flag touch the ground and should always be waving high in the sky. I think the second the flag touches the ground that is the same as burning the flag. When I honor the American flag I just think it is amazing all the people that were willing to risk or even die just to protect our country and win our freedom. I also think of all of our founding fathers who all took a lot of time and effort to decide what our flag would look like and what the Constitution would say. I also think about why they fought for our freedom and risked their lives for freedom. I also think of my grandpa when I look at the flag. He could have stayed home and waited for it to be over, but no, he went and fought to protect our country and our freedom. And that is why I honor the American flag.

Voice of Democracy

By Avery Kraus

Why does my vote matter? My initial response to this question was, “It doesn’t! There are millions of other people in America, so how could one vote really make a difference?” Many people have this misconception and as a result, they choose not to vote. But this notion is far from being correct. Every person’s vote matters, even more than most people think. How an individual votes impacts the future of our society even when that person is in the minority. If a person votes a certain way regarding a particular issue but is in the minority, their vote still matters because it makes other people more aware that there is an issue. The more people that willingly give up their right to vote by choosing not to, the less people will actually be represented. A significant number of people are choosing not to vote, and as a result, the leaders elected do not truly represent the needs and desires of the people. Every vote matters because voting is a way for all people, including those in the minority, to voice their opinions and concerns.

By not voting, you give up a right that others before us have fought to protect because of its importance. Voting is one of the most important rights we have, because it helps protect us from a government that does not care about the individuals. Voting is a way for people to increase awareness regarding issues that are important to them, because the way people vote influences what decisions are made. Voting is not only a right, but it is also a civic duty. Democracy is based on the idea that the power comes from the people and in democracy, the government is run by representatives that are chosen by the people. In order for democracy to work how it was intended to, people must use their right to vote and share their voice. Votes of individual people contribute not only to who is elected but also to the decisions that are made. Individual votes matter because democracy depends on people using their voice to make changes through voting.

Although it is true that one vote may not affect the result, change doesn’t happen through just one person. Even though it may seem like voting is pointless because there are so many other voters, change can only occur through people’s participation. Each person’s vote matters because the future of our society depends on the participation of every citizen in sharing their voice to help make improvements. Progress requires the combined efforts of everyone that is able to participate and help. Voting is the only way for people to create change in a democracy, so while one vote does not often make a significant difference, the combination of the efforts of many voters can make a difference in society. By working together, we are able to enact changes in local, state, and federal government. My vote matters because it is an avenue for me to express my voice in matters that involve me and help change the world around me.

Leota Harriman
Leota Harriman

Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at news.ind.editor@gmail.com.