Desloge VFW and Auxiliary members presented several youth and adults with awards during a recent ceremony.
After VFW Commander Mel Brinkley called the ceremony to order and welcomed the guests, he led guests in saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Afterward, Christina Bockenkamp sang the National Anthem.
Auxiliary member Shirley Brinkley read a special piece titled “The True Meaning of Patriotism” before recognizing several adults for their patriotic contributions and support in various ways: Kristie Camp, Jocob Goeller, Ryan Hassell, Clifta Thurman, Drew Hartenberger, Amy Heberlie, Leah Mills, Pam Clifton, Chris Stroup, DeAnna Callahan, Melanie Allen, Laura Becker, Lauren Wright, Troop #1492 (Andrea Hurt), Troop #2619 (Jessie Evans), Troop #549 (John Gansmann), Mrs. Bales and Mrs. Zolman.)
The Desloge VFW Teacher of the Year winner was Kristie Camp of West County High School.
Ron Kightlinger recognized the 2018-19 VFW Patriot Pen Essay Contest Winners: Ava Clifton, first place for West County Middle School; Natalie Yim, first place for North County Middle School; Mariah Storie, second place for West County; Haylie Williamson, second place for North County; Mykiah Perkins, third place for West County; and Gracynn Moore, third place for North County.
The theme for this year’s essay contest was “Why I Honor the American Flag.”
Several local middle school students were recognized for being participants in the VFW’s Patriot Pen contest: Abigail Terry, Abigail Wilkins, Alice Littrell, Alivia Gossett, Breanna Propst, Chloe Roach, Halee Nash, Janie Parks, Kaitlyn Woodman, Lillion Jenkins, Madisyn Little, Raegan Gibson, Sarah Gonzalez, Scott Vance, Skyler Gardner and Summer Phillips.
Clifton and Yim read their winning essays:
Clifton: Betsy Ross made the first American flag before the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution. Even then the flag was a national symbol of our country. It has changed many times, from its original 13 stars and 13 stripes to our current flag with 50 stars and 13 stripes.
The flag has stood tall during wars, displayed at patriotic events, and flown on special holidays. Olympic athletes have proudly carried it. Astronauts even placed one on the moon. The flag was flown high after 9/11. Immigrants have saluted it and recited the words of the pledge as they became U.S. citizens. The flag has flown at half-mast, draped over soldiers’ caskets, and folded and presented to families of the fallen.
To many, the American flag represents hopes and dreams. It is especially important to veterans. Many went through wars to protect our freedom by fighting to uphold our flag and the things it represents.
My uncle Alfred joined the U.S. Air Force on his 17th birthday and trained to be an aircraft mechanic. He served in Vietnam for four years. He and his brothers risked their lives to protect us. Many did not return home. They carried the American flag proudly and fought bravely for our nation’s citizens and their freedom.
One of my favorite songs is Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.” I always sing one verse a little louder than the others: “I thank my lucky stars to be living here today, ’cause the flag still stands for freedom and they can’t take that away. 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. And I’ll gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today ‘cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land, God bless the USA.”
As I place my right hand over my heart when I recite the Pledge of Allegiance every morning at school, I think of what the words mean to me. I picture my uncle Alfred and the soldiers who fought for us and how all of them gave some, yet some of them gave all.
Despite our country’s struggles, I choose to respect ’Ole Glory because of what she represents: freedom, faith, unity, hope, love, strength, prosperity, courage, and one nation undivided. This is why I honor the American flag.
Yim: Why I honor the American flag is because it stands for so much, it inspires me and the people around me. Everything that has to do with the flag is important, including the first design and even the needle that sewed it. Each color of the flag is influential, the white stars on the blue patch, and the red and white stripes.
The red stripes of the flag, to me, represents the blood sacrificed in the battles for our freedom. I believe it is for the soldiers who died for us, and our land. I believe God has really blessed us with the flag and our freedom as people. “One nation under God,” is a very special part of the pledge for me.
The way I see it is that the white stripes of the flag are for the fury in the eyes of the colonists. As they raced into battle against the British, I can just see their faces now. They would do anything for the freedom of themselves and their families, “Fight for freedom or die trying.” They used the fury and the love for their families to help them through the long drawn out days in battle.
Lastly, the white stars amongst the blue on the flag, are for the tears shed by the families who lost loved ones in battle. I would just like to thank all of those out their, dead or alive, for your service. I am sorry and proud of the people who died. Risking your life for others is a kind, selfless act.
To summarize, to me each color and part of the flag represents something special and important. The stars and stripes to each little stitch and for what they represent are intriguing to me. This is why I honor my country’s flag.
VFW Voice of Democracy contest winners were also recognized. West County High School students Megan Perkins and Kaley Burr won the local contest. Perkins earned first place and Burr took second in the essay and speech contest. This year’s theme was “Why My Vote Matters.”
Perkins: When you think of your country what is the first thing that comes to mind? Some may picture our brave soldiers fighting valiantly. You might see images of our flag standing tall and blowing through the wind flash across your thoughts. Perhaps you see our president giving a speech and addressing eager and open ears. Maybe you even think back to last Independence Day when you and your family sat on a blanket and watched as the night sky was lit up with colors. There are numerous things that could potentially come to mind!
For me, when I think of my country, one word in particular stands out in my head. We. As in “We the People.” The words that start our Constitution hold more inherent meaning to me than most. All of the things previously listed are all connected by this one word. We, as in us, the people of America. We are the future, I am the future. This is why my vote, and yours, matters. Voting is a civic responsibility, keeps you engaged, and impacts your future. So why not vote?
To start voting is one of our civic responsibilities as I stated just a second ago. In our last election only 58% of Americans voted which makes it one of the lowest voter turnouts in the developed world. Most people think that because the Electoral College elects the President it is pointless to vote. This is far from the truth. The thing we must realize is that we get to decide who the Electoral College must support. Voting is the first step in a chain reaction. Those who choose not to vote because of the so called “inevitableness” of one party winning are just helping their opposition. People are finding excuses to neglect their civic responsibilities, voting especially. As can be seen most of these excuses are easily countered.
Now that it has been established why people don’t vote, I’d like to tell you why they should. Voting keeps you engaged in your country. When you vote you are exercising a right that past Americans have fought and died for. When was the last time that you watched the news? How about read the newspaper? Can you confidently say you are aware of what is going on in your country right now? This is why voting is important. It keeps you involved, engaged, and proud. You should be proud to have a say in your future. Voting is a way where you can impact and shape your future how you see best. We are lucky that we get the right to vote and we should stop taking it for granted.
What I believe to be the most important reason to vote is the fact that we are the future. I am the future. Like so many young Americans today I am provided with the opportunity to learn about my country’s history and government. I get to use my own moral judgment and choose what I believe is right because my voice is the future. I am given the power to help shape my country’s future for the better. By voting I am making myself apart of something big. By voting I am helping myself procure a better future.
So in conclusion, my vote matters because it is my civic responsibility. It keeps me engaged, and it helps me impact my future and as a United States citizen your vote matters too!
Donors were also recognized for providing gift cards and certificates for the adults’ gifts: Buffalo Wild Wings, Subway of Desloge, Little Caesar’s of Desloge, Benham Street Grill, Colton’s, Hub’s Pub, Catfish Kettle, Pasta House, Burger King, El Tapatio of Desloge and Susie McBride of Remax Realty.