Youth Essay

Youth Essay Contests

Voice of Democracy Contest

“In Serving in Our Military Is There Pride?” by Katarina Nguyen

“I’m sorry; you didn’t make it. I will live my life for you”.

The crumpled letter is overlooked, tucked away in the crevices of the Boots to Books Monument erected for soldiers; a message from one soldier to another: one hero to another. This soldier has spent his birthday surviving a surprise ambush; this soldier has witnessed his best friend being blown to pieces; this soldier has been through the fiery depths of near-death and has scratched his way back. These soldiers enlisted because it was their intrinsic duty towards their country; they enlisted to stop the inherent evils of the world; they enlisted for you and me, America. I’ve had the honor of speaking to soldiers from all walks of life. Their unanimous answer to my inquiry, “is there pride in serving in our military?” replays in my mind: “I have lost brothers and sisters, a part of my soul. But being there, for my family and my country, I am proud.” These soldiers are interwoven in an intricate tapestry of American pride, each thread a vibrant spark of red, white, and blue: the colors of freedom.

94 year old P-39 pilot Buck enters the room, with thick glasses perched on his wrinkled face. The colonel’s sunken eyes remain proud as he recollects his 137 flight missions during World War II: Smoke and flames choked the air as airplanes wildly spiraled downwards and out of control. Seeing the white, blossoming parachutes though, he knew some pilot was being saved. As the bursts swirled towards the ocean, a navy was waiting. Buck’s pride is apparent.

Tom saunters in; as a medic Staff Sergeant during the Korean War, he is an unsung hero. Tom whispers, “It overwhelms you: a three ton truck full of U.S. men, dead. The KIAs were stacked like cardboard until spring”. Tears threatened to spill for those he couldn’t save; he hasn’t cried in 30 years. He has saved lives, working through icy winters and blazing summers in the 23rd infantry of the second division. Despite everything, Tom’s pride is apparent.

Jim, a proud E-5 Sergeant, lost his best friend during the Vietnam War: Ron was only 19. Kevin lost 241 brothers and sisters, in a single terrorist attack in Lebanon. Peter was a fortunate survivor of an Iraqi suicide car bomb; he also missed his five-week old son growing up while serving in Afghanistan. James remembers the friends he lost in Europe from the Cold War. These soldiers have seen limbs blown apart and bodies strewn about amidst rapid gunfire and warfare, the fleeting image of their loved ones as their last thoughts. With each life lost, is the loss of a caring father, an optimistic boy scout, a quiet sister, a beloved American. Yet, amongst this loss is pride. Patriots fight in air, land, and sea, for you and me, America. They carry their hearts out onto the bloodied battle field and bear the burden of sacrifice to protect our proud nation.

We will perpetually set the sacred table: the bitter lemon wedge and salt grains of fate and tears, the vacant chair of loss, the delicate black napkin of captivity, the lone overturned glass of an uneaten meal, the pure white candle of peace, the single blood-red rose and the ribbon of hope, the rough grains of salt spelling out the word “hero”, all placed on the simple white tablecloth of a soldier’s pure heart. Our nation takes pride in honoring our heroes.

Throughout history, brave soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines -at home and abroad- have fought to protect our nation, our freedom, and our values. They continue to bear the uniform of the United States of America from the 235 years since our nation’s declaration of independence. It’s quixotic to believe that you and I could enjoy this sweet freedom without the blood, sweat, and tears and the unwavering determination of those serving in our military that we often take for granted. The pride arising from standing shoulder to shoulder with brothers and sisters in arms, under a single flag is immeasurable.

So, as the rain begins to fall and the wind picks up, the crinkled letter is swept away and the ink smears into bright multihued splotches. The soldier’s words fade away to join the soldier’s fallen friend, but his message is etched in my mind. Despite the loss, there is hope. Among the crevices springs life. In our military, there is pride.


Support the Hometown Heroes Raffle (a repeat request from last month)

The Washington Department of Veterans Affairs is sponsoring a raffle in conjunction with the Washington State Lottery.  The proceeds will go to provide financial assistance to soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan through the Veterans Innovations Program.  Tickets are $10 and the proceeds of every ticket sold directly benefits soldiers and their families.  The drawing is November 11th.

November Post and Auxiliary Meeting Moved to American Legion Hall

Our November meeting falls on Veterans Day and the Edmonds Senior Center will be closed.  We have moved the meeting to the American Legion Post 66 Hall on 6th and Dayton in Edmonds.  Lunch will be served.  We are starting a pool and betting on how many members show up at the closed Senior Center on the 11th.  I can think of one for sure (and no, I won’t disclose my guess), but my bet is three.  Please make me lose the bet by showing up at the correct location.

Honor Flight — Erv Schmidt and Robert Otto

At the  October meeting we were treated to Erv and Tom Hallums relate their story of the journey to Washington DC on an Honor Flight trip.  Honor Flight is an organization dedicated to flying as many WWII veterans to the Capital to view the WWII Memorial.   Tom, a Korean War vet, accompanied Bob Otto while Erv was accompanied by his son, a Vietnam vet.  They were treated first class during the entire trip and, while just a two day visit, were guided to all the veterans’ memorials, not just the WWII Memorial.  A few interesting facts; the Memorial was built entirely from donations from the public.  The Memorial is the only memorial between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.  It wasn’t built without controversy as a number of people did not want any memorial to be located in this area.  Hopefully, we will be able to assist a couple of more members take the Honor Flight in the Future.

New Member Profiles — Pete Farmer

Pete grew up in Winchester, Virginia and attended Virginia Military Institute.  Upon his graduation from VMI, he was commissioned a 2nd Lt. in the U. S. Army and received advanced training in field artillery.  He volunteered and served two tours of duty in Vietnam.  During his first tour in 1969, Pete was stationed in 2nd Corps.  When he returned to Southeast Asia, Pete saw action at several fire bases throughout South Vietnam.  After serving in the Army for eight years, Pete was discharged from Fort Lewis in 1976.  Two years later, he returned to the Pacific Northwest, living in Seattle.  He is a retired banking executive, and he and his wife, Patty, now reside in Edmonds.  They have two sons, one who lives in Oregon, and their youngest son is a student at his father’s alma mater, VMI.

New Member Profiles — William Halsey

William is a twenty year veteran of the Navy, who retired in 2001 at the rank of Commander.  He is a native of Chicago, and was a Naval Aviator.  William attended the Ohio State University, receiving a B.S degree in Aeronautical Engineering.  While attending the Naval War College, William earned a Master’s Degree in National Security and International Affairs.   During his career, William flew anti-submarine warfare missions and also served as an instructor pilot and test pilot.  His overseas assignments included tours in Japan, Okinawa, Thailand, Diego Garcia, and the Philippines.  Among his decorations, William was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal with 1OLC, Meritorious Service Medal with 1 OLC, Navy Achievement Medal with 3 OLC, and four Sea Service Deployment Ribbons.  William is an Avionics Design Engineer at Boeing.  He and his wife, Linda, are residents of Edmonds.

The Ladies Auxiliary Corner—Valerie Ehlers, President

The first weekend in November (on the 4th and 5th) we will be having a Buddy Poppy campaign, I hope I can count on several of you to work a four hour shift at the Top Foods in Shoreline on either Friday or Saturday. It is always best to have 2 or more people working a shift together so you can give each other a “break” from the table once in a while. Sign-up sheets will be at the October meeting. It can be FUN, why don’t you give it a try?  Since the Senior Center will be closed on Veterans’ Day (Friday, November 11), we will be meeting at the usual time at the American Legion Post on the corner of 6th and Dayton in Edmonds.  The Post will be supplying our food that day. There is a small room available for us to have our meeting. Thank you members of the Post for thinking of us in your planning!  The next District meeting will be  November 12th,  the day after our meeting. Remember to wear something PINK to this meeting!  Our meeting in December will be on the 9th and the Christmas luncheon will be on either the 1st or 2nd Saturday of December.

Until next time, this is Valerie your Ladies Auxiliary President.

Mike Reagan to Speak at 3rd Place Books

Mike will be speaking about the Fallen Heroes Project at 3rd Place Books on November 2nd at 7:00PM.  First, for those of you who don’t visit book stores, 3rd Place Books is great.  In addition to a small restaurant, you can browse for new or used books.  In addition, there is a stage where Mike will make his presentation.  I am asking that all of you who can make it to do so.  And bring a friend.  It is important to spread the word to our fellow citizens about Mike’s project and how important it is to the family of our fallen heroes.

Mike Reagan to Speak at 3rd Place Books

World War I Exhibit Comes to the Museum of Flight

If you didn’t see it, it’s gone.  However, I thought I would share with you a fascinating exhibit that came to town.  I had a chance to run down to Boeing Field to the Museum of Flight on a recent Sunday afternoon.  I had read an article that an exhibit about WWI was being held on the tarmac in front of the museum.  Although small (held in a very large semi-truck that could be moved from location to location), the exhibit was excellent.  Somehow in a very few words and pictures, the introductory film unraveled the tangle of politics and alliances that brought about the first world war and clearly explained how an assignation in a small country would lead to millions dying.  While it exhibited the usual uniforms, etc. it concentrated on the small items that soldiers carried and also how the wounded were treated, as well as the dead.  For instance, following the war, the government sent Gold Star mothers to Europe to visit their son’s graves.  WWI is becoming a forgotten war.  It is a shame.  What the soldiers had to endure and casualties that were incurred were horrific.  An entire generation of young men died.  While the US brought home a number of their KIA’s (the Brits didn’t), one of the cemeteries US soldiers are buried in is Flanders Field.   A thought to remember when you are handing out Poppies in a few days.

The Chaplain’s Corner — Rock Roth

While flying off the carrier, we use to ‘kid’ the other pilots asking if they did not return could we have their stereo set or something of similar importance.  This comment was brought on by youth and the idea that each thought he was invincible.  When someone did not return, we rationalized that person’s death by saying to ourselves, “That could never happen to me.  Old…… just screwed-up.”  However, with each passing year and the passing of close friends and family, each of us comes to the realization that we are human and that means there is no way out of this world except through death!  Each of us, at his or her appointed time and place, will face death.  I strongly believe, a living hope, that I and others who believe in Our Lord, will not face death alone; that there is everlasting life after ‘crossing the bar’.

During the last couple of weeks, we lost two members of our Post – Charles Siljig, a Korean War Vet, and Kenneth Pearl, a Vietnam Vet.  Our Post sent cards to the families of these our fellow Comrades in arms who have gone to be with their Lord.

The Order for the Burial of the Dead opens with the following:

I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die.  I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though this body be destroyed, yet shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not as a stranger.

We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.  The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!

As members of VFW Post 8870, what each of us can do is to rededicate ourselves to our Nation – to our fellow veterans, our community, and especially our youth:  the next generation – so each remembers that our government “of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.  If those words sound familiar, they should.  They are borrowed from President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.  Each of us should live everyday as if it were our last, doing good, and helping our fellow man.  Because today just may be our last!