Veterans Essay Winners

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[WHY VETERANS ARE SPECIAL 1 The biggest sacrifices veterans have made for their country do not just happen on the battlefield. They happen quietly, without fanfare, without recognition. They happen in small homes and living rooms, with only those left behind as witnesses. Everything a veteran must do is a sacrifice, from leaving behind their lives, to stepping onto the battlefield. The sacrifice of time is just as important as the bravery shown in war, and oftentimes much more difficult. These sacrifices are what make veterans special. Veterans became veterans because they possessed the honor, bravery, and patriotism that they needed to stand up for their country. These men and women represent everything that we, as a nation, fight to protect, everything we value in life. Our honor, our liberty, our livelihood, lies with them. Our nation's veterans pledge their lives to our defense, so that, in their absence, we can continue to live in freedom, and enjoy our time in life. Veterans are separate from our everyday struggles. They represent our country as a whole, people of every belief coming together and standing strong. They do not pledge themselves to us simply because it is their duty. They have a deep-seated belief that this country is worth fighting for, and they volunteer to be the ones to step forward in its protection. The patriotism in their hearts is what allows everyday life to continue unimpeded; it is how they advance and do what they must for the good of the country as a whole, not just what they would want themselves. The veterans in our country show the most valued trait in civic virtue; selflessness, the ability to put their entire country before themselves as individuals. Veterans devote their entire lives to the improvement of society, in the hope that we do I WHY VETERANS ARE SPECIALI ..- not befall the same mistakes as those before us. Veterans are those who have volunteered themselves for their country, they are the people we salute every day, the men and women we respect in the highest honor. America's veterans choose their path knowing the difficulties it will hold, knowing the sacrifices they will be required to make, fully aware that they may never return, but safe in the knowledge that they are supported by their country. Our veterans are special because they alone understand the true cost of freedom, and are willing to pay that price so that our posterity may enjoy the benefits of that freedom, and so our country can continue its legacy far beyond our imaginings. Marilise Stamps Extraordinary Veterans What makes veterans extraordinary is how ordinary they appear to be. Veterans might be somebody's uncle, mother, daughter or brother. A veteran may be a father that teaches his son how to fix his car. A veteran couid be a child's grandfather who turns down his hearing aid when he doesn't want to listen to his wife. What you don't realize is that the father's mechanical skills come from repairing a ship's engine for 25 hours straight during the Korean War, and the grandfather lost his hearing from artillery fire in World War I. The quiet, ordinary lives of veterans belie their courage and sacrifices they made for this country. Not a lot of people could pick a veteran out from a crowd. They don't walk around decked out in medals, or brag about what they have experienced. You can't see what they've seen, or know what they know. All of this seems to be locked in a vault somewhere inside of them, and no one is allowed to see. How, then, are we supposed to distinguish these veterans from ordinary people? How are we supposed to honor them for what they've accomplished for our country through courage and valor? Can it be that veterans don't expect us to recognize them for what they've done? Veterans could just be exceptional people who don't seek exceptional treatment. Look around you. Look for that ordinary individual that may not be so ordinary. Look for that person who doesn't stand out in a crowd but deserves to. Look for that selfless individual who gave more than most of us dream of giving. Recognize that person who didn't seek recognition. You never know, that mother, father, daughter, brother, or grandfather may be a veteran, and veterans are extraordinary no matter how ordinary they appear to be. i Whv are Veterans Special? Doc Hastings once said, "We owe our World War i! veterans - and all our veterans - a debt we can never fully repay." But why is this? Why do we owe people that we don't even know? Could the reason be because of the sacrifices they made or the bravery they showed? Could it be for the tough times they have gone through and still have to go through? Maybe we owe our veterans for a much simpler reason. Maybe we owe them for not being extra ordinary, but for being extraordinary. Maybe we owe veterans simply for being special. Many people ask why others risk their lives. Countless stories have been told about people losing not just their lives, but their limbs, identity, and even their mental abilities. The question is, therefore, why risk even the chance of this happening? Why not let others fight while you just sit back and watch? Many people choose to sit back, but what makes veterans special is that they chose to go into action. Some might have enlisted because of the influence of family; others, because they felt that they had to protect themselves or their loved ones. Some veterans chose to enlist in the armed services because they felt patriotic. There are many reasons why veterans have chosen to join the military, but that doesn't mean any reason is less special than the others. Anytime anyone risks losing themselves for the purpose of the greater good, it is special. Veterans have done this time and time again in their lives. This continuous act results in changing others' lives. Country artist Keith Urban wrote a song saying, "1 would give my life... I would make that sacrifice. Cause if it came down to it, could I take the bullet, yes i would. For you." Many people don't have the type of bravery to take a bullet for another person or group of people. Imagine strapping on boots that you know could be torn right off your feet. Imagine jumping out of an airplane behind enemy lines. Imagine living on a US aircraft carrier fearing the threat of underwater mines every day. Think of the bravery it would take to be in any of those scenarios. Many veterans have their own memories like that. Many veterans are brave and return home to tell the tale... but countless stories tell of veterans who are brave that don't make it back home. Veterans have that rare bravery, and that's what makes them set apart from the rest. So why do we owe these people? Do we owe them for protecting our freedoms, or risking their lives for us and our country? Do we owe them for the great number of sacrifices they have made in their lives, or for their rare bravery which they possess? Maybe we owe veterans for not being ordinary. We owe them for being extraordinary. Or maybe we owe veterans for just a much simpler reason— we owe veterans because they are special. Peace from Sacrifice Ethan Forte War makes a great plot for book or movie, but few people have actually had to go through the pain, and suffering that it can bring upon a human being. Whether it is a medic having to tend to a body that has been mutilated and broken, or a solider watching a fellow comrade die in battle, to suffering an injury themselves, veterans have endured. When people are active in the military, they are usually away from family and friends. While they are fighting across seas, in distant countries, risking their lives for their own country, the majority of American citizens are enjoying the peace that comes from their sacrifice. America has not seen war in its own country since the Civil War between the Union and the Confederacy. We have been kept safe from outside threats because of the veterans who have served in our country. If not for them we may not be living in the free, independent, first world we find ourselves in today. Veterans have endured, and sacrificed. Terrorists and other threats have opposed our country time and again, but because of the veterans we are safe. Veterans have fought for us and kept our country free and because of them we are free. Veterans have sacrificed their time, their welibeing, and even their lives. We remember, honor, and respect veterans for all that they have done for their country and will always hold a special place in our hearts. Without veterans who have fought for those around them, America would not be the same. Julia Schaller America Is Beautiful Not too long ago I visited the Veteran's Hospital to deliver thank you cards to the veterans. As I walked down the halls of the hospital, it all came to life in front of me. There I was, standing on the battlefield or crawling through a ditch dodging death and trying to drown out the noise of gunfire with thoughts of home. Coming back to reality, I turned the corner with some of my peers as the nurse led us down another hallway. This time, more of the rooms were open so we could go in and say hello and drop off some cards of appreciation to the veterans. As I walked into the door, I was a little nervous. I don't have the best time talking to people I don't know, I've always been that way. But as I started up conversation with a veteran, it became easy. And when it came to giving the thank you cards and moving on to the next room, I was genuine. We all are. Just being in the same room as a veteran was a complete honor. Every room told a different story. Each veteran was honorable in their own way. All veterans are, regardless of their circumstances. Being there and writing cards to the veterans made me realize how incredibly important they are to our country. Veterans have risked their lives to fight for our country. They fought for peace and justice, and devoting your live to fight for the peace and justice of others is something huge worth honoring. Veterans everywhere, even at the hospitals, should walk with pride and glory, knowing what they've done. Knowing they've changed the lives of millions. One man's work can save thousands. This got me to thinking that people should do this every day. Veterans should get nationally more recognition, especially through schools. Our nation takes much pride in our veterans, and loves them very much, but even more could be done. Even if it's just taking time out of your day to write them letters to be delivered. Veterans deserve the utmost respect, appreciation, acknowledgment, and glory. America Is Beautiful After spending years of their life dedicated to us as citizens, we as citizens should pay it back to them by giving them what they deserve. America is beautiful, and our veterans had a huge impact on making America beautiful. Cole Gallagher Courageous for our Freedom "The secret of freedom is courage." This apt quote by Thucydides is to me the essence of freedom. And the ones courageous enough to have fought for my freedom are veterans. War demands a special kind of courage, both physical and moral. You see willingness to risk life and limb, and strength to endure hardships with admirable determination. The cost of my freedom was high, but it is my honor to be able to thank a veteran for their service in protecting my freedom. Veterans impact us everywhere in our daily lives. Both of my parents are veterans, and I normally see at least one person with a veteran's patch on at the grocery store. So, as you can see, veterans are everyday people dispersed throughout our lives. They are not some person that nobody knows; they are our family members, our friends, our coworkers. These courageous people are very real in our lives, and it takes unwavering loyalty to ones country to leave behind family, life, and home to serve in protecting our freedom. Freedom is a precious gift. It takes the courage and sacrifice of thousands to attain, and many more to keep. I cannot imagine what hardships veterans had to endure, but it is with gratefulness that I can stand here today as a free person, living in such a way that I can bring honor to those who have sacrificed so much for me. It takes a very special kind of person to be a veteran, so honor our veterans for what they have done and who they are. Veterans Essay Elizabeth Clapp Rockbridge High School Teacher; Jennifer Cone Class of 2013 1705 Stanford Drive 65203 Columbia Missouri Your loved ones are always just a phone call away. Every night you sleep in a warm bed with all your comforts of home surrounding you. Then the next day you go to work and watch the clock till it's time to leave. You complain about the small things, people you don't like, something that didn't go your way, the waitress hasn't brought your food fast enough, or there's a bug on your windshield. In truth all of your problems are as small as that bug. We live in a nation forged from freedom and we owe our lives to the people who bled and died for this pure land. We are all connected, a quote from Common Since by Thomas Paine says, "It matters not where you live, or what rank of life you hold, the evil or the blessing will reach you all. The far and the near, the home countries and the back, the rich and the poor will suffer and rejoice alike." Materialistic ideas rule our lives but "it's our dearness only that gives everything its value." Our values in life have shifted and we need to take some time to appreciate what is really dear. Objects don't last forever but freedom will always be there, same as relationships for they hold steadfast from our lifetime into the next. Be thankful for everything that you have, because if it weren't for the many veterans who have lived and died fighting for us, you would have nothing. They are the sole foundation that holds us together and they will be there time and time again to preserve our freedom. Forever and Always Ashley Rippeto Rockbridge High School Becky Rippeto 12730 S. Rippeto Rd, 65203 573-657-0147 He missed them so much; their light, their smiles, their ways. His wife and his little boy, Dylan, oh how they grieved in his heart. He wanted to go home now. He didn't want to wait any longer; but then again he couldn't complain, it would only be 2 more days till his four years were up and he could rightfully go home. He reflected on the Vietnam War. What a terrible war it had been. So much blood and tears and pain. His wife had said people change in war, for this is why she never wanted him to leave; but he felt obligated. He knew he had to. Like a dog should come to the whistle of its owner, he must obey his country's call. She begged him not to leave; for her; for their at the time 8 year old son, he would be 12 in a month and 9 days. The thought of missing his past birthdays sickened him. His son did not want him to go, but he never did beg. He simply said, "Goodbye, Daddy. I love you." His sons words echoed in his head, my oh my how he needed to be home. Today was the day. His four years rang done. He was already on a plane, on his way back to Missouri. He missed his home-town too. Columbia didn't have a lot to offer, but his family did. He could smell the vast un-desired Missouri atmosphere already. He had a 20 hour flight. He didn't want to wait on this crowded plain any longer. He wanted to hold his wife and provide for her like he was supposed to. He wanted to embrace his son; and to see the man he was growing up to be. The only communication he had with his family was letters his wife had written to him and him replying back as quickly as possible. The last letter he sent was about 2 months ago. He guessed it failed to reach her; for she usually responded three weeks after his letters. Why did she not answer? These ideas drowned his thoughts and worried him, but he tried to keep them out of his mind. He was going home! Before he could take the first step into his familiar driveway, the door that played its familiar squeaking-tune slammed open. Out ran his little boy. "Daddy!" he cried. All he knew in that moment was the feeling of his son's warm embrace. He stroked his hair as he whispered gentle I miss you's. He looked up at the door once again to see his wife. He ran to her. They kissed each other passionately, and he decided right then that he could never leave again. He looked into the eyes of his family gently, and murmured, "For our family is forever and always, and I will always love you both. I will never leave again."



Three talented middle school students – the top winners of the “2016 Connecticut Veterans Parade Student Essay Contest” – read their poignant pieces on Thursday, October 27 at a public ceremony in the Connecticut State Capitol’s Hall of Flags.

The 2016 First Place winner is Rachel Coppinger (center above) of West Simsbury, an 8th grader at Henry James Memorial School in Simsbury. As the contest’s top winner, Rachel will ride with one guest in a special vehicle in the 17th annual Connecticut Veterans Parade on Sunday, November 6 in Hartford. In recognition of her achievement, she also received an American flag that has flown over the Connecticut State Capitol Building.

The two Runners-Up are Mehr Chhatre (center right) of Hamden, a 7th grader at Hamden Middle School, and Stephanie Hernandez Rodriguez (center left) of Manchester, an 8th grader at Illing Middle School in Manchester. 

The 10th annual statewide competition encouraged 6th, 7th and 8th graders to learn more about the heroism and importance of American servicemen and women throughout our nation’s history, inviting students to write an essay about “What It Means to Be a Veteran.” More than 540 entries were submitted for this contest that is presented by Navy League of the U.S. - Hartford Council and the State of Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs. The judging criteria were:power of the message of the essay; clarity of thought; spelling, punctuation and grammar; and overall comprehension of the topic.


First Place Winner –RACHEL COPPINGER
8th grader of West Simsbury

“And I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free.
And I won’t forget the men who died who gave that right to me.”
God Bless the U.S.A., Lee Greenwood

I have been told by my father and grandfather, both veterans, that serving in the military changed their lives. They said that serving in the armed forces made them part of a large family, one that taught them important life lessons in teamwork, pride, integrity, and honor. They said these lessons began in boot camp and were meant to give them the inner strength necessary to survive on the field of battle.

 I am proud of the military service in my family. My father served twenty-two years in the Air National Guard, which included active duty supporting the war in Afghanistan. My grandfather, a Marine, fought courageous battles during the Korean War and fell in love with my grandmother who was also serving her country in the Marine Corps. My other grandfather proudly served in the Army during the Vietnam War.

 My father has always said he was honored to represent the Air Force Core Values which state “Integrity First, Service before Self, and Excellence in All We Do.” He said these words are meant to inspire soldiers to build character, self-discipline, and to put the needs of others before their own needs. My father says these values helped make him a better person and that he still carries these values with him today.

 Veterans are people who took an oath not only to defend our country against enemies both foreign and domestic, but were prepared to die to keep that oath. Many paid the ultimate sacrifice to uphold not only our country’s freedom, but the freedom and democracy of other nations who asked for our help. It is the veteran’s patriotism and selflessness which has allowed not only Americans, but people of all nations to live free.

 With all that veterans have sacrificed for our country it makes me sad that some people in our country refuse to stand or place their hand over their heart when the Pledge of Allegiance is said. Liberty comes at a cost and veterans have given us this liberty with their blood, sweat, and tears. Some veterans who have gone through combat carry burdens that they have buried deep in the private depths of their hearts because they are too painful to share and our national anthem and the American flag represent all that our veterans have sacrificed.

 Veterans have given all of us the greatest gift one human being can give to another… to lay down their life for their fellow man. They are selfless heroes who are all around us. They are our teachers, our neighbors, our policemen, our family members, and strangers we pass on the street. This to me is what it means to be a veteran.

One of Two Runners-Up – Mehr Chhatre
7th grader of Hamden

To be a veteran means to be committed. You’re committed to your country, committed to your mission, and committed to the people. It doesn’t matter what part of the military a veteran served in, or if they had ever been in combat, they were always committed. They have a sense of responsibility that they were held up to, and were striving to keep that sense of responsibility alive. Coast Guard veteran, Mr. Dan Levy said, “service above self”. Veterans were committed to their mission at hand and the people who they were serving with.

Veterans were leaders. They were leaders for our country and for themselves. They are brave individuals who did their best to keep our country out of harm’s way, even if it meant leaving their own family behind. Every job in regular civilian life is in the military. Some were medics, engineers, scientists, and many more. All these veterans worked around the clock and never received leave, unless granted liberty. This shows that these elite groups of people were so committed to what they were doing for their country and for the people in it. Veterans also cared for those affected by battle in war-torn countries. They help out the local population by giving food and more.

 To veterans commitment can mean sacrifice. Veterans had to put their life on the line every day in battle; sacrificing themselves for the country they loved. As the 20th president of the United States and military veteran, James A. Garfield said, “For the love of their country they accepted death.” This shows that veterans would sacrifice themselves, but they also sacrifice beloved family moments while on duty.

 Along with that, veterans sacrificed a normal life after they returned. Some came back with devastating injuries and others with mental challenges, but their love for their country stills burns. Sometimes they lose each other, but the reason they joined the military is still there.

 Veterans are intelligent, brave, and most of all committed. They don’t lose sight of the reason they joined the service. For veterans the mission, country, and each other come first and they are secondary. This is clearly shown by the words of 22-year-old soldier, Joe DaSilva, who said to his troops, “If I had to give my life for any of you, I would do it in a heartbeat.” They are selfless for just this reason. No matter in the Coast Guard, Navy, Army, Air Force, or Marine Corps all veterans are committed. And it doesn’t matter whether they were a scientists or a soldier every veteran that was in the military was committed to their country. To be a veteran doesn’t just mean to go fight in a war or research in a lab, it means to be committed, to be committed to your country, to your mission, and finally to your people. That it was it means to be a veteran.

One of Two Runners-Up – Stephanie Hernandez Rodriguez
8th grader of Manchester

          “What does it mean to be a Veteran?” Many people asked that question, but do they know what it really means to be a veteran. A veteran is someone who has served in the military, but is that it?. Being a veteran is not just serving in the military, being a veteran is so much more. A veteran is someone who was willing to make a sacrifice, someone who is courageous, and someone who is upstanding.

 Being a veteran means willing to make a sacrifice. Many times we don’t realize the sacrifices that veterans make when they accept to serve our country. In fact, the biggest sacrifice of a veteran is not just on the battlefield. They remain unknown, leaving families as the only witnesses to those sacrifices. They happen in the backyard, where a little girl blows out her candles wishing to see her father’s ocean blue eyes. They happen in college, where a boy looks at a empty seat in his graduation hoping that his mother will arrive soon. They happen in the living room, where a mother looks at the picture of her young boy. We aren't aware of the woman standing in front of a grave with her daughter, telling her father the things she accomplished. We aren’t aware that they go to war to fight for us, knowing they might not see the light of day anymore, knowing they might not be there to see their kids grow, knowing that they would leave many family members drowning in a ocean of sorrow. We don’t fully understand the sacrifice that is made.

Being a veteran means being courageous. They went to war knowing the risk they were taking. They trained as hard as they could to fight for our country. They stood in the middle of the battlefield hearing the shrieks of war and were not afraid to keep going. They did everything that was necessary to help our country. No matter the injuries, the scars, and the bruises they kept going. They didn’t care about the risk, they didn’t stop. They believed in freedom, in rights, they believed in peace and still do. Even the little acts of courage that they made should be honored.

Being a veteran is being upstanding. A veteran is someone who should be respected. A veteran should be honored for what they have done for our country. It doesn’t matter is they were part of the Air Force, the Army, the Coast Guard, the Marine Corps, or the Navy. They deserve respect. Veterans are such an inspiration to so many people. They inspire us to be peaceful, to be brave, to have courage, to be human.

Veterans are so many things, a simple essay isn’t enough to explain and appreciate their service.


Connecticut Veterans Parade
c/o CT Veterans Fund Board of Directors
27 Southview Drive
Wallingford, CT 06492

Copyright 2005-2018 Connecticut Veterans Parade

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