BISMARCK — A local high school student’s essay on military pride became a central part of a welcome home celebration held this weekend for U.S. Iraq war veterans in St. Louis.
Bismarck High School junior Jake Jarvis was invited to present the entry he prepared for this year’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Voice of Democracy essay contest at the day-long patriotic event that brought out an estimated crowd of 100,000 people. The essay was read by the teen from atop a large stage set up especially for the celebration at historic Union Station.
Last fall, Jake’s essay, sponsored by Bismarck’s VFW Post 6947, won first place in Missouri’s 8th District, and this Saturday will be competing on the state level in Jefferson City. His is the first essay in the history of the Bismarck School District to ever make it this far in the competition.
Jake’s father, Wendell, said his son showed a mixture of emotions on Saturday as the time approached for him to read his essay before the large crowd.
“Earlier in the day Jake was kind of nervous,” he said. “But as the time approached, he became more confident. Jake did a great job once he was on stage. His mother Angela and I were very proud of the job he did.”
Following is the text of Jake’s essay, “Is There Pride in Serving in Our Military?”
“The young man boards the plane with shaky knees and heartache for home, but his face shows no fear, no worry, just as he has been trained. He is able-bodied, able-minded. He stands tall, his chin held high. He can see his family in the back of his mind, but the thought quickly passes as he is directed into the cargo hold of the massive aircraft. A tear starts to form at the corner of his eye, but he shakes it away. There is no way he will show his companions what is really on his mind. When he had joined only a few years in the past, there was no war. There was nothing to actually fight for, but only to train for. Now, a war has begun, and he is on his way to the front lines.
“His friends and family received the news by phone, and have no chance to see him before he gets deployed. It isn’t until months later when they arrive at the airport that they get to meet with him once again, but he has changed.
“He had left on legs, but he returned on wheels.
“He had left with perfect hearing, but now could not recognized his own mother’s voice.
“While the whole world can see what has changed about his appearance, he feels changed in a different way. His family and friends approach him weeping because they know the pain and suffering their loved one has been put through, and that his life will never be the same, but the young man wears a smile. The wounds, the scars, mean nothing to him now, because he left a nobody, but he returned a hero.
“This young man represents the thousands of men and women who leave the security of this nation, just so this nation is secure for the rest of us. Our troops overseas are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to keep us free. They know that when they return, we will still be free, and with soldiers to follow in their place, we will always be free. They ask nothing in return. No praise, no monuments, no rewards. This is what serving means. Our veterans sacrifice everything they have, time and comfort, and sometimes even life itself, but ask nothing from us in return. That is serving.
“When those men and women of our military sign their enlistment contract, they know that they are signing their life away in one way or another. They have now willingly given up a part of their life with that simple signature, but they don’t regret it, and they never will. They are there to serve for their nation now. They are a part of the United State military. They know that if need be, they will head to the front lines, with a gun and a helmet, and not put up a single complaint. They know that their lives will change forever. While they may or may not come back whole, they will come back with something that is beyond words.
“While the young man’s family cries for him, he smiles because of something that cannot be seen. His physical appearance is easy to see, but only he knows about the biggest change, the one buried deep inside. Whenever he looks at his wounds and scars, he will feel no regret. He knows that despite his losses, he has gained. He smiles because his country is free, and he is proud to be a part of it.
“Is there any need to ask if there is pride in serving in our military when there are thousands of people, just like our hero, who know what true pride feels like? It does not come from rewards or medals, or even praise from friends or fellow veterans. It comes from knowing that your part has been done. It comes from inside and it needs no recognition from others. True pride comes from serving.”
Kevin R. Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 114 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.