Photo by Tucker Henderson
Haley Korkowski took first place in the Voice of Democracy at New York Mills School.

Haley Korkowski

Voice of Democracy, first place

Why is the veteran important? It’s such a simple question, but how do we answer it? Veterans defend and protect out country, but they do a lot more than that too. They have sacrificed many things that a lot of us wouldn’t be able to live without. Like being able to see family every day, or watching our kids grow up without us in their life.

Every single soldier had to make the choice to leave their husband or wife, mother, father, sisters, brothers, their children, and unborn children. Even though this is such a hard choice, they decided to make it any ways to protect you and me. I know that a lot of us here today would never be able to leave our family or country to defend people that we have never even met. All of these veterans here this afternoon, and soldiers all around the world chose to protect you, me, and everyone else in this room.

They don’t know who you are, but they knew that they cared enough about you and their country to lay their whole life down on the line for you. At least when the soldiers get to come home they can see their families again, right? Well, that’s not always the case. Did you know that many veterans will come home to no family or house? Soldiers are literally out fighting not just for their lives but for all of ours too. They should at least be able to return to a house, family, and money at the least. Our soldiers are fighting to keep the whole country safe. The least we can do is make sure they can return to a life worth living.

Many veterans have a terribly hard time being introduced back into their regular lives and trying to find jobs and a way to stay alive. We as a country should make it easier on them during their transition process. We should also remember and be grateful for them and all that they have put themselves through for us.

Could you imagine dying for someone you don’t know? Could you imagine having a meaningful death, but nobody remembers you for it, and nobody mourns you? Every single day as a soldier is fighting they will think of the country that they are saving and the lives that are being spared because of them. They truly do deserve some recognition for everything they do. Nobody deserves to be forgotten, especially a veteran.

Even when they’re not in a battle or fighting a war, and retired, they’re still supporting schools and communities through their VFWs. This is a huge deal for a lot of people, and a great way for the veterans to continue to serve their country. Not one veteran I have ever met was unhumbled.

They have never bragged about who they are or what they’ve done. They do a lot for this country and we wouldn’t be here without every single one of them. Our world would be in total and utter chaos if we didn’t have our peacekeepers who we call our soldiers and veterans.

So for the answer to our question, “Why is the veteran important?”, There are millions of answers that would show how important they are. But none of those answers will ever be able to repay them for everything they’ve done for their families, communities, state, country, and the world.

Jessica Lenz

Voice of Democracy, second place

Our country has been through a lot. Whether it was internal problems or external problems, we Americans have go through them all. But what about the people who were actually there for those events, helped people through them, and helped America come out on top? Veterans are the foundation of The United States of America and the role models of all future generations. This country would not have gotten to where we are today without them.

To be labeled as a veteran, you have to have served active duty in the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard. The amount of bravery one has to have to do that is through the roof. Not knowing where you’re going to be stationed or with who is a terrifying thing to go through, but these are things that veterans go through just for their country. This bravery and courage is what America is built on. All of the battles and struggles that were fought are because of these qualities in veterans. It takes a lot out of a person to be able to do such things which is why veterans should be honored and loved for as long as they live and decades after.

Veterans are the people who are proof of the hardships this country had to get through to get to where it is today. Citizens of America are extremely lucky to have had people like veterans fighting for their rights and freedoms. Not only do they fight for the people of our country but they also fight for the rights and freedoms of the citizens in other countries. They are the most selfless people in the world. Veterans don’t even know all the people they fought for and helped throughout their active duty and after. They just want to help and do all they can to save a life and that is a moral all Americans should have.

Veterans should feel pride for what they did for this country. They are the role models for al future generations and having the title of Veteran is a thing that should be celebrated. In school, when students learn about the history of the country, they are taught through battles and places but less about the soldiers and people that were there for those events. Veterans are the ones who had to get through those events while dealing with the effects it has on their physical and mental health. Many of the veterans still cope with these effects today. Teaching these young students who is behind the history of the United States shares the ideals and morals of selflessness to the impressionable young children.

Being behind the framework of the country is not an easy thing to do. We should all appreciate and care for the Veterans of America to show them how much they are valued in society. Showing the appreciation we have is the least we could do for these brave souls. So every time we think about our freedoms and our great country, we should keep in mind the veterans that are behind it all.

Photo by Tucker Henderson
Josh Anderson took third place in the Voice of Democracy at New York Mills School.

Josh Anderson 

Voice of Democracy, third place

Why is the Veteran important? This year’s question is a challenging one. I have talked with many veterans over the years to help understand their story better. Here is what I learned:

The veterans decided on their own terms to “sign a blank check.” They solemnly swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. They decided to leave their hometowns and their families. Go into a system to serve and protect, to follow orders without question and above their comfort and wishes. They serve and served to keep American strong and free. They provide peace to Americans. They are a symbol of peace, strength, and protection. The “Model Citizen” who puts in hard work and loyalty to protect our country and our futures.

One veteran I talked with left a partner and two children at home to serve thousands of miles off of American soil, to defend our freedom and to do their duty. Their duty to serve and protect. Veterans are one major reason we can live our lives in space, to sleep in comfort. Veterans choose to put their country’s wishes above their own. Yet we as Americans do very little to support them when they return home. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in 2020 there was 6,146 Veteran suicides. That was about 16.8 veterans per day. I believe that is unacceptable especially for the sacrifices they put up for our country. We need to put more support toward such veterans awareness and help agencies. These men and women need to be protected and remembered for their acts of service and heroism. We must recognize their endured hardships and fears. To honor them for keeping us safe and secure.

Photo by Tucker Henderson
Garrett Uselman was honored for his entry in the Patriot’s Pen at New York Mills School.

Garrett Uselman

Patriot’s Pen

April 29, 1945 Kinawa, Japan about 4:00 a.m. BANG!!! I spring out of my slumber to find many others doing the same in our dark dam trench. I hear an alarming high-pitched ring in my ears as Sarge begins barking orders while I scramble to my rifle and prepare to launch my upper body over the top of the trench… Just this morning, many awoke and began to stretch as the tender morning air seeped into their nostrils. They looked out a crystal clear window to see the flag flying powerfully outside. And appreciate the safety provided by veterans that now lives in the flag, our flag. Thus, we should respect veterans and what they have done for us and take pride in the freedom they gave us. As a result, my pledge to our veterans is to honor and respect their sacrifice, commitment, and bravery to our country.

Veterans left their families, homes, and lives knowing they might not come back to any of it. They respect our country so much they would go to war for it. They left home to serve not only their families or our nation, but each of us. They knew the risks, for instance, they might not come home alive, but they still served our country.

Their commitment to our country deserves to be noticed and respected. That they put themselves in harm’s way so that we could thrive while they took the burden of war. They committed themselves to our country and worked through every day and night for us. They wouldn’t back down to the challenge. Furthermore, they did it all for us.

Regardless the level of danger they put themselves in for us, it had to have been scary for them. The friends they lost and the things they experienced, it scarred them for life. But they didn’t stop, they continued working through it and if they fell down they got back up for America, for us. They bravery they had doing it is phenomenal.

Veterans sacrifice, commitment, and bravery deserves everyone’s honor and respect. Veterans sacrificed everything for us. They committed themselves to our country and didn’t give up. Nevertheless, they were so brave for us and our country. Therefore, you and I should both give our respect to veterans.

Photo by Tucker Henderson
Autumn Salo was honored for her entry in the Patriot’s Pen at New York Mills School.

Autumn Salo 

Patriot’s Pen

Have you ever heard of Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley or Chuck Norris? You may know them from your music play list or favorite movie, but did you know that they all served in the U.S. Military? Johnny worked as a morse-code operator and Elvis was an armor intelligence specialist. As for Chuck, he served four years as an air policeman in the U.S. Air Force. These men all put their lives on the line for our country before they were recognized for their talents. Therefore, my pledge to veterans is to acknowledge their service to America as a major accomplishment deserving of fame.

Not only did people sacrifice their time, they have also sacrificed by putting their lives back home on hold. This cost them the time with their family and some veterans a lifetime of Post Trauma Stress Disorder (PTSD). Elvis put his career on hold. Chuck only found his love of martial arts because of his service. Johnny had to abandon his wife of three weeks when he was deployed. Those are only three stories of the millions of men and women who have served this country, can you imagine what others have given up?

As a student in New York Mills, we are given opportunities to honor our Veterans through the Veteran’s Day assembly and the Patriot Pen essay. As an adult, the VFW, Ronald McDonald Ride are ways that we can give recognition. For all that veterans have done for our country, they deserve more. You deserve more than a day, more than an assembly. My pledge is to encourage others to celebrate in as many ways as possible.

The opportunities we have as citizens to participate in and what the veterans have done for us is incredible. When you take the time to consider all the sacrifices, the hard work and the hours invested, they play a huge part in why we are what we are as a country. We owe them so much appreciation. Remember when I talked about those famous guys who were veterans? Well, don’t you think they deserve as much recognition and care as we can give them? And not only them but all the men and women who served around the country.

Photo by Tucker Henderson
Mary Peterson was honored for her entry in the Patriot’s Pen at New York Mills School.

Mary Peterson

Patriot’s Pen

If veterans can do so much for our country, why can’t we do the same. We can all find a way to help veterans out, just like they did for us. Let’s start here, by writing this essay about why veterans are important and why they matter so much to our community.

I promise to always stand for the flag because it is respectful. If you don’t stand that shows how much you don’t care for our veterans. The flag helps us remember those who died for us and standing for it is just the right thing to do. Also, by standing for the flag you can show veterans how much you care. If you want to complain that ten seconds is taken out of your day to stand, then you’re very disrespectful. Let’s all be respectful, kind and stand for the flag.

I promise to honor the people who died for us. To do that I will have a moment of silence for all the veterans because it is respectful. They also do a lot for our country. They did not have to be part of the military, they chose to for us. Please, take off your hat during a moment of silence. Anything kind you do for them helps make up for the lost time, for they had to leave everything behind. Most importantly, they had to leave their families and their friends.

I promise to honor veterans for the promises they made to us. I will do that because they deserve it because they risked their life to bring us freedom across America. Also, if I see a veteran in person, I will thank them face to face for what they did. It is nice and they stopped slavery and every other horrible thing that happened a long time ago. What happened a long time ago was sad, painful and harmful. People did not deserve to be treated like that. Hopefully, history is just a thing of the past because no one should be treated like that.

Lastly, if veterans can do all of that for us, we should do something meaningful for them as well. Most importantly, there is a lot of stuff so don’t be stuck on ideas because there is a lot we can do. Without a doubt, I love our country. Thank you veterans for serving our country.

Photo by Tucker Henderson
Aubree Salo was honored for his entry in the Patriot’s Pen at New York Mills School.

Aubree Salo 

Patriot’s Pen

As I go about all of the things I love to do, I cannot and will not take for granted the sacrifices made by our veterans that make it all possible. Without their valor, the opportunities we have today would not be possible. Some of our veterans paid the ultimate price and now it is our turn to return the favor by taking care of their brothers and sisters who also put their lives on the line.

Although the war may be over, at home the fight continues. Many veterans deal with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) because of the horrific experiences they were exposed to. PTSD can make living ordinary day-to-day life extremely overwhelming. It is important that we do not leave these veterans to face their challenges alone. Just as they did not leave us to face this nation’s enemies alone.

What can we do to support our veterans now that they’re home? In what ways can we reach out to be positive that they are not carrying their burdens without a friend? I pledge to take the initiative and ask a veteran how I can be of service to them now that their service has ended. Whether it’s helping with daily tasks or lending a sympathetic ear, I pledge to make it known to our veteran community that I am more than willing to help.

Sometimes just letting someone know that you appreciate them can go a long way toward brightening their day. If anyone is worthy of our appreciation surely it is the men and women who fought to preserve our way of life. Through acts of kindness and service, we can demonstrate that our gratitude is more than empty words uttered on a few select occasions and holidays. Every veteran has their own story, and we should celebrate not only what they have done four our country, but the incredible person that would make such a sacrifice.

Let’s make sure that our veterans’ lifetime sacrifices do not go unrepaid. They stepped up when we needed them, now it’s our turn to step up now that they need us. After all, we are one nation under God and our unity is what makes America a place that people all over the world long to be.