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Creative Writing Contest: The Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award for Veterans

January 26, 2016

The Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award for Veterans is a creative writing contest for U.S. military veterans and active duty personnel. It’s run by The Iowa Review and sponsored by the family of Sharlet (in…

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Parade Essay Contest 2017

Congratulations to the winners of the 2017 Phoenix Veterans Day Parade Essay Contest!

We had more than 200 entries for our essay contest this year! Writing to the theme of “Silent Sacrifice: Honoring Our Cold War Veterans,” students were judged on Creative Writing, Grammar, Originality, Content, and Theme Focus. The winners will receive cash prizes courtesy of Durant’s Restaurant, a ride in the parade, winning essays printed in the parade program and more. AND each winner’s teacher will receive a $150 gift card for use in their classrooms!

We hope you enjoy this year’s excellent essays (below) – and look for the winners on the Hall of Flame fire truck in the Parade!

Ethan Brown – 11th grade, Seton Catholic Prep; Teacher: Jessica Breen


Cold War “duck and cover” drills at elementary schools were a constant reminder of imminent threat.

One of the tensest eras of American history was built not on what happened, but on what didn’t happen. It was an era where there were no direct conflicts between the two enemies. An era where there were no formal shots fired. An era where we protected ourselves against hypotheticals instead of actualities. This was the Cold War, a 46-year standoff between two superpowers. My grandfather is a Cold War Era veteran.

My grandpa, Msgt. Paul G Agne, USAF Ret., enlisted in the Air Force right out of high school in 1971, serving over 22 years. When he enlisted, Vietnam, a proxy war between the U.S. and Soviet Union, was already going on. Everything my grandpa did in his military career was designed to prepare him for full-scale nuclear war.

Ethan Brown’s grandfather, Mst. Paul G. Agne, USAF.

He was stationed at Davis Monthan in Tucson until 1980 when he was deployed to Turkey to support anticommunism in the Middle East. For the safety of my mom and grandma he went alone, leaving his family for a year. Turkey was a dangerous country, with bombings and violence, but the Americans were there to support the Turks against the USSR. It took an amazing amount of courage to leave everything behind in order to protect the world from the Soviet threat, but like all veterans, he sacrificed because of his love for our country.

My grandpa said that serving in the Cold War was difficult in spite of not being a “hot war.” A majority of his time was spent knowing there was a real nuclear threat, tensions rising constantly, but he had to stay strong to take care of his family. Those in the military waited anxiously to see if the USSR would act, if a missile was headed their way or global war was approaching. It was a stressful time watching and waiting to see what happened.

My grandpa said one of the toughest parts was the effect on his family. The school my mom went to on base was kept on alert, just like the soldiers. They had nuclear drills just like we have fire drills today. The windows of her elementary school had heavy drapes as protection against nuclear fallout, and they practiced drills, hiding under desks with the drapes shut tight.

Fortunately, all the preparation for a catastrophic war was for a war that never happened. On November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall came down. December 26, 1991, the Soviet Union dissolved. The Cold War had ended. However, in some ways the Cold War and its veterans have been lost to recent memory. There was no parade for the soldiers when the war ended. There is no Cold War medal for the veterans. They are the silent heroes of a terrifying era in American history. The debt of gratitude we owe them for their sacrifices is indescribable. They are the heroes who stood ready at the watch, preventing the war that never happened.

Ruby Price – 11th grade, Shadow Ridge High School; Teacher: Stacy Roberts


Much is forgotten to history. Sucked into the fleeting oblivion of human memory that causes a life-changing event for some to be non-existent for others. The service of Cold War veterans seems to fall under that category for many Americans. Those nearly 50 years of tension should be prevalent in most people’s minds, but we are finding that there is little to be said for those who served our country during those tumultuous times. For though the Cold War involved no combat, it was still a war, and countless sacrifices were made daily for Americans to live their lives in comfort.

As Veteran’s Day approaches, it is important that we acknowledge the silent sacrifice of those who served during the Cold War. It is safe to say that warriors are held in high esteem in our country. After all, our most popular sport is one where 300-pound men crash and tackle into each other, warring over an egg-shaped ball. Singularly, this speaks volumes on the emphasis on violence in our culture. This fixation carries over into who we value in our society, veterans included.

As Americans, we all love an invigorating battle of brute strength, but the Cold War was much more than that. Its battles were fought with words and threats, which are often taken less seriously in our culture. However, the Cold War was one of the most restive periods in American history. At any moment, the United States could have plunged into the third World War. At any moment, schools and cities could have been bombed. At any moment, the military could have been forced into action. Our veterans served with this fear burning in their minds, yet they pressed on.

On September 1, 1983, Korean Airlines flight 007 was shot down by the Soviet Union, killing 269 innocent civilians. My father, Donavon Price, was on the USS Coral Sea when this tragic event took place. Tensions were high and stress was palpable as the crew wondered what this act of aggression could lead to. They didn’t know whether they would head home after seven months at sea or be dispatched into enemy waters. The Cold War was filled with moments like this, moments of terror and anxiety as our country was pulled from the brink of war, time and time again. Should we not honor those who set aside their comfort, despite whether bloody battles were waged or not? Being a veteran has no conditions other than to serve your country, which is what these Cold War veterans have done, asking for nothing in return. They have sacrificed, though they haven’t shouted their exploits to the world. They sacrificed quietly, humbly, gracefully. A silent sacrifice; the most noble of them all. One that should be celebrated. Rewarded. Honored.

Craig Zeigler – 12th grade, Sunrise Mountain High School;

Teacher: Jennifer Kruska


War is a concept that has a certain stereotype in the minds of most people. It elicits thoughts of firefights in an isolated and faraway part of the world, far removed from the comforts and privileges of the United States. People are usually quick to acknowledge those fallen veterans who served in war and bear the scars from it. Their faces are typically promulgated over news broadcasts and tribute is paid for their fight against the opposing soldiers. However, this concept of war does not apply to a conflict that lasted for over 50 years – the Cold War.

A Russian nuclear missile on parade during the Cold War.

In the Cold War, our real enemy was faceless. It was an enemy as shadowy as the men deployed to eradicate this enemy. The true enemy during the years of the Cold War was fear itself. It was the first time in history where citizens scrambled to search the nearest dictionary for the meaning of war. The people were scared; fearful of an impending doom in the form of a nuclear weapon, where life would cease to exist before they knew it. Those same people scrambled to the nearest television set hoping to receive comfort and optimism from the words of the President, disregarding that they were already in safe hands. As a result, millions of service members were set to work. These personnel were sent to prevent the conventional war from ever taking place. They were dispatched from the air, sea, and land, as well as discreetly in environments where no one was ever able to know what really happened.

It is said that approximately 389 soldiers were killed in the years of the Cold War, a statistic that is not written about in the history books; nor was it shown on any news broadcasts. An example of this was an incident in 1960 of a U.S. Air Force ERB-47H Stratojet that was downed by a Soviet pilot over the Barents Sea. In this incident, the pilot, Bill Palm was killed, while ELINT operators Eugene Posa, Oscar Goforth and Dean Phillips, co-pilot Bruce Olmstead and navigator John McKone survived but were soon taken captive. These men could have easily been placed on desk duty and let each country’s respective political leaders talk it out, but instead felt an obligation that they needed to risk their lives in order to comfort the people. They were never acknowledged by the people, but their contribution was all that mattered.

These men dying for their country were able to give the people of their country the opportunity to see another day, to extinguish any fear, and to work towards a world of peace.

As the son of a retired Naval Commander and FA-18 pilot, my heart goes out to all veterans, the ones recognized for their heroic efforts and the ones overlooked. Let Veterans Day be the day of commemorating all of whom have worn the uniform of any military branch, and acknowledge their great sacrifice and representation of our stars and stripes.

Veterans Day Essay Contest

Sponsored by Haley Buick GMC Midlothian

Winners read their winning essays at the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Veterans Day Ceremony November 11, 2017.

The High School winner was Kevin Amoroso a 9th grader at Carver College and Career Academy in Chesterfield County. His teacher is Stephanie O’Neil.

Kevin is being congratulated by Carlos Hopkins – Secretary, Veterans and Defense Affairs, Commonwealth of Virginia.

(click to read Kevin’s winning essay)

Annika Plunkett, 6th grader at James Madison Middle School in Roanoke City, was this year’s Middle School essay winner. Her teacher is Angela Kryl.

Carlos Hopkins – Secretary, Veterans and Defense Affairs, Commonwealth of Virginia is congratulating Annika.

(click to read Annika’s winning essay)

2017 Veterans Day Essay Contest (CLOSED)

“It’s a funny thing about coming home. Looks the same, smells the same, feels the same. You realize what has changed is you.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

their parents and Governor McAuliffe.

guide when framing the way you discuss the concept of home.

While the methods of warfare and nature of battle have changed over time, one thing remains consistent: young men and women leave their lives and families behind. Both leaving and returning home can be life changing experiences for many, and the meaning of home can change drastically during a war. Home can be different things, whether it is defined by one’s family, community, or nation.

Submissions should be 500-750 words. Successful submissions will directly address the prompt and will incorporate more than one primary source. We have provided a few resources on the topic of “home” and the military on our website to inspire some ideas, but do not only use those resources. You must provide a bibliography in either APA or MLA style. Use of proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation is a must.

This contest is open to all middle and high school public, private, or homeschooled students living in Virginia. A winning entry will be chosen from each age group. Submissions will be judged by Virginia War Memorial staff and members of our sponsoring organization, Haley Buick GMC Midlothian.

Entries are due Friday, October 20, 2017 by 11:59 p.m. Rules and guidelines are available HERE .

Winners will receive $250 courtesy of Haley Buick GMC Midlothian and will be invited to read their winning submission aloud at the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Veterans Day Ceremony. In addition, the teacher of the winning student will receive $100 to be used for their classroom.

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Veterans essay contest




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 8 th 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 7 th grader at Hamden Middle School, and Stephanie Hernandez Rodriguez ( center left ) of Manchester , an 8 th grader at Illing Middle School in Manchester .

The 10 th annual statewide competition encouraged 6 th , 7 th and 8 th 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

8 th 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

7 th 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

8 th 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.

Your town. Your Message. Our mission.

The Yonkers Dept of Veteran’s Service is sponsoring an essay contest. The contest is open to all Yonkers students from 5th to 8th grade.

The topic of the essay is what a Veteran’s Monument means to you. The essay must be submitted with a picture of the monument and written in 250 words or less. In addition the essay must be submitted with a cover page that states the name, address, phone number and grade of the author.

Your town. Your Message. Our mission.

The Yonkers Dept of Veteran’s Service is sponsoring an essay contest. The contest is open to all Yonkers students from 5th to 8th grade.

The topic of the essay is what a Veteran’s Monument means to you. The essay must be submitted with a picture of the monument and written in 250 words or less. In addition the essay must be submitted with a cover page that states the name, address, phone number and grade of the author.

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Every year, the U.S. Veterans Legacy Project in conjunction with the Delaware County Intermediate Unit presents the Mary Ryan Memorial Essay Contest in honor of the annual Veteran’s Day celebration in Media, PA.

The goals of the contest are to encourage Delaware County students to learn more about veterans of the United States armed services and how they help preserve our freedom. The essay contest is open to all Delaware County students in grades 6 through 8. A first, second and third place winner will be chosen for the contest, each one winning a cash prize. The winners will be asked to read from his/her winning essay during the Veterans Day Parade and Ceremony.

Colonel Maureen Weigl at the 2016 Delaware County Veterans’ Day Parade



The 2017 parade was a great success! Join us in 2018 for the 59th Annual Delaware County Veterans Day Parade in Media, PA.

2017 Parade Highlights

Contact Details

Veterans Legacy Project

Media, PA 19063, USA

Phone: (484) 444-0200

©2018 United States Veterans Legacy

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