Marianne Pressley, 13, a Craig Middle School eighth-grader, walks back to her seat after receiving $50 in Craig Chamber of Commerce Spree Bucks for winning the Patriot’s Pen essay contest. Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265 sponsored the contest.

Photo by Shawn McHugh

Marianne Pressley, 13, a Craig Middle School eighth-grader, walks back to her seat after receiving $50 in Craig Chamber of Commerce Spree Bucks for winning the Patriot’s Pen essay contest. Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265 sponsored the contest.

Eighth-graders win prizes in essay contest

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Patriot’s Pen essay contest winners pose with VFW Post 4265 members with their winnings in hand. Pictured, back row, from left, are Mark Wick, Dave Walters, Tim Womble, who was an honorable mention, and Al Shepherd. Middle row, from left, Courtney Wood, Hannah Walker, Kelly Knez and Derek Maiolo, who received honorable mention nods. Emily Keleher also was honorable mention. In the front row, from left, is first-place winner Marianne Pressley, second-place winner Nicole Ferree, and third-place winner Megan Gingrich.

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VFW Commander Mark Wick announces the winners of the Patriot’s Pen essay contest Friday at Craig Middle School. The VFW gave $130 to winners and honorable mentions for their efforts.

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Emily Keleher was an honorable mention for the Patriot’s Pen essay contest.

About 10 Craig Middle School students submitted essays about honoring war veterans for an essay contest called Patriot’s Pen.

On Friday, Mark Wick, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265 commander, handed out prizes of $50, $30 and $20 in Craig Chamber of Commerce Spree Bucks for first through third places.

Six honorable mention winners each received $5 in Spree Bucks.

Patriot’s Pen is a national essay contest that awards almost $1 million to middle school students nationwide.

Marianne Pressly’s essay about her trip to her birth village in China won first place, and will go on to complete in a regional contest.

If she wins that contest, she could be in the running for a $10,000 scholarship awarded to the state winner.

Below are the essays submitted by the first through third-place contest winners:

Marianne Pressley

First place

Last year, I had an experience of a lifetime. Having been adopted when I was 8 months old, I was able to return to my birth village. It was an event in my life that, no matter what, I will never forget.

I drove into Fuzhou Village, Zhejiang Province, People’s Republic of China, anxious and nervous all at once. I stepped out of the taxi and walked cautiously on the wet, slippery, mossy stones.

The streets were narrow, almost like alleyways. After observing the stone walls, I came across a tall and wide red door with a mirror above it to keep evil spirits away. I looked down at the doorstep, the very doorstep where I was placed when I was 1 day old.

Standing there, I saw how my life would have been. I saw myself as a poor, uneducated girl. I would be happy, but I never would have known God. I could not choose a career. I would only be allowed to have one child because of the One-Child Policy. I couldn’t vote. I wouldn’t have the freedom to speak freely.

Standing on that doorstep, I counted my many blessings. My life is full of love, happiness, freedom, and opportunities. I have a wonderful family and friends. I especially thank the veterans for the freedom in my life.

To all of you who served and sacrificed for me, I thank you. You have served in times of war and also in times of peace.

I am thankful for you who served in Europe and the Pacific. I am grateful for you who served in Korea and Vietnam. I am especially thankful for you who are serving in Afghanistan and Iraq today.

Every day I am thankful for veterans and for being able to live freely in the United States of America.

Terry Nicole Ferree

Second place

Since before 1776, hundreds of thousands of Americans have been fighting for our freedom and rights. From the American Revolution to the Invasion of Iraq, Americans have served our country in many different ways. They have served our country as medics, nurses, soldiers, mechanics and in many other capacities.

Veterans have fought and died for our country and everything it stands for. They fought for our soil, our people and our liberties. Some have lost everything for us including their homes, lives, families and jobs. With all these sacrifices, many never receive any recognition or expect it.

We honor our veterans two days out of the year, even though they fought every day. On Veterans Day, we put our flags out, but do we really do anything for them?

Memorial Day we celebrate and throw parties, but for the most part, the parties aren’t for the veterans. People look at these days as an extra day out of school or off work, not for the veterans that have taken years out of their lives to protect our country. We should honor our veterans every day.

Honoring our veterans

every day is not a hard task. Just think about everything they have done for us. We take things for granted and never take time for thanking the people who give us those things. Veterans are a big part of our life and we should honor them every day so that they know how much we appreciate their commitment to save our lives and country.

The next time you see a veteran or soldier in uniform, you should say, “Hi,” and, “Thank you,” no matter if you know them or not.

They deserve your respect and gratitude.

Taking a moment out of what you consider your hectic and busy life is a small sacrifice for the enormous sacrifices they have made for our country.

Megan Gingrich

Third place

What is the right time to honor our military heroes? This topic is one that is very important.

I think that it should be discussed more in the school systems. These are my three reasons concerning when and why we should honor these men and women.

First of all, we should honor the members of the military when saying the Pledge of Allegiance in the morning. While saying it, we should think of what the people have done. That way, we would have pride in our country. Some even died so we could be able to live our lives. These people should have the right to be thanked correctly.

Secondly, we should honor them personally in our own time. We should thank them daily without having someone telling us to. They fought for our freedom. The least we could do is to think of them. They have not been thanked properly in my opinion.

Lastly, I personally think that there should be a special day, besides Memorial Day, dedicated to them at least once a month. They have seen things that I probably will never see in my whole life. They truly deserve to be thanked for what they did. In a way, they have saved my life and many others.

These heroes — men and women — who have fought and sometimes died to keep us safe and free, have been under-thanked. They are brave men and women with courageous hearts. They have served so when I’m older I won’t have to. They are greatly appreciated in my book.

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands: one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

If they did not fight, I would not have been able to say that phrase at all.

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