Local students write about America

PINEDALE – Two different veterans’ entities sponsored separate annual essay contests recently, and shared the results with the Roundup.

The Pinedale VFW Auxiliary for Post 4801 announced eighth-grader Isabella Vitanza was the winner of the Patriot’s Pen middle school essay contest. This year’s theme was “How can I be a good American?” She will represent Pinedale at the state level in the next phase of the contest. Seventh-grade student Heather Noble finished second.

Pinedale High School senior Emmaline Vrska won the Voice of Democracy contest sponsored by Fremont Peak VFW Post 4801. That high-school aged contest, a spoken-word essay, held the theme of “America: Where do we go from here?” Brycen Vrska finished second.

The Patriot’s Pen youth essay contest allows students to compete for a share of more than $1.4 million in state and national awards. Each first-place winner receives a minimum $500 and the national first-place winner receives $5,000. The contest encourages young minds to examine America’s history, along with experiences in modern American society.

The Voice of Democracy audio-essay program allows high school students to compete for a share of more than $2 million in educational scholarships and incentives. The national first-place winner receives a $30,000 scholarship paid directly to the recipient’s next-level institution. Each first-place winner of the state VFW Department wins a minimum $1,000 scholarship.

Essays from both Vitanza and Vrska were shared with the Roundup. They are as follows:

How can I be a good American?

by Isabella Vitanza, Pinedale Middle School eighth-grader

Being a good American means I have to appreciate my freedom and the individuals who make sacrifices for us and our country. I have to show and appreciate my freedom, individualism, respect, equality, hard work, helpfulness, and follow the law. I can show I love America and do my best to make it better.

In order to be a good American I can appreciate service members. They put their lives at risk so we can have freedom. Also, I can take responsibility for my actions. I treat everyone equally, make them feel included, and not treat anyone differently. I follow the law. It is not there to threaten us, but rather to make our country a safer place. I appreciate our country. We have it easier than most countries. Other countries struggle with shelter, food, water, schools, or even freedom. I am fortunate to have what I have, so I appreciate it. If I see something bad happening, I will help out. I will not just stand there and watch it happen. I will try making a change if I can, and I will take responsibility. I could help the environment the best I can. I can pick up trash, and I will not litter. I will try my best to clean up our country. I will pay taxes to help the government and help pay for needs. I respect the American flag. Just because something happened that I do not like, I will not destroy our country’s flag because it is very disrespectful. Finally, I say the national anthem and take a moment of silence every day. I usually think of our fallen troops and take a second to appreciate my freedom and how lucky I am.

I know many people who were in the military: My uncles, my aunt, my great-grandparents and friends. My great-great-great-uncle was in the military, but sadly he lost his life serving our country. I appreciate his selflessness. My dream job is to be a police officer to enforce the law and help people, and I have also considered being a military veterinarian so I can help animals and people. Being a good American takes work, but we have more freedom than most countries do. I appreciate that, and I have respect for our country. I do my best to be a good American and take care of our country.

America: Where do we go from here?

By Emmaline Vrska, Pinedale High School senior

On a compass, there are four cardinal points: North, south, east and west. Then there’s up, down, left, right, forwards, backward, and diagonal, all words pertaining to spiritual awareness. Each of these words gives us a sense of direction. It’s easy to ask for directions. You can get virtually anywhere by saying, “Hey! Where do I go to get to the (insert location)?” Places such as the grocery store or the library or the next town over are easy to find. “Just take a left in one block, turn right twice, and then go straight east for six blocks. There will be a big sign on the sidewalk across from it.” These are easy questions to ask because you already have a destination in mind and know where you are trying to go, but what about a metaphorical location?

What if it’s not just you trying to get somewhere other than where you are now? What if it’s more than just your family on a road trip or your sports team traveling to an away game? What happens when the people you’re trying to move can’t all fit onto a bus or a plane or even a cargo ship? How are you supposed to move millions of people in the same direction? Where are they going to go, anyways?

Sometimes, if you’re really quiet, you can hear Old Glory whispering into the wind, “America, where do we go from here?”

To that, I say up.

I am but a small voice in this American sea, but I am still a voice nonetheless, and my voice says this:

Our great country in all its free-to-choose, be-who-you-are essence has failed its people miserably, not in the way that its citizens are being treated poorly, but that the example given to us by our leaders of recent past has been abysmal.

The actions committed by the men in the White House are adjacent to the tantrums thrown by children who don’t get their way. Burning insults are tossed back and forth between sides, making for a game of hate or be hated. If you’re not the first to find fault in your opposition, then fault will be found in you. It was designed this way by the people who want power, individuals whose only knowledge of politics translates to, “How can I earn the most money the fastest?”

Decisions made by our government leadership, notably in the retrieval of troops from Afghanistan, have caused pain and suffering throughout the nation. People wonder if their efforts were in vain. The years they served overseas, did they mean anything at all? The Taliban retook the entire country the moment we exited. What is going to happen to all the Afghan citizens whose lives were fought over to protect?

More broadly, the handling of the Covid pandemic has cost thousands of people their lives. People lost their livelihoods, their families, and their homes. The turmoil over the best steps to take in order to protect yourself has been unclear. Suggestions given by leaders, doctors, and scientists have been rebuked several times over, replacing their guidelines with instructions that are obscure and make no sense.

Everything being pushed through the media, whether social or news outlets, has an agenda. Reputable sources are few and far between nowadays. Unbiased information is hard to come by and even more difficult to fact-check, making it nearly impossible to be 100-percent sure of anything you hear. What happened to sharing knowledge without attempting to push an impassioned political agenda?

It is despicable, it is revolting, and it needs to be stopped. Our children and our children’s children are relying on us to lead by example, to show them what needs to be done to keep our country honorable, or at least get it headed in that direction. If we cannot handle unifying political parties to rally around a common goal, how do we expect the later generations to even run the country with grace?

That is the beautiful thing about the later generations, though. If today’s children are taught well, it may not be too late. They can open their eyes to their parents’ pitfalls and turn it into something good, learn from their mistakes. We can restore this country to its former glory, pulling it up from the rubble.

The fuel that drives our nation is running low; kindness, charity, and selflessness are rare traits in society, but those are the very characteristics that keep the cogs well-oiled. If more people adopted love for their neighbor and an unyielding loyalty to their country, the United States of America would be much better off.

America has only one way to go now and that is up.