‘One of the reasons I honor the flag is because my dad served in the military and he fought for our flag’
Student participants in the annual VFW Post 1856 Patriot Pen essay-writing competition had a simple question to answer this year: Why I honor the American flag?
Roger Simonson, youth essay chairman for Post 1856, said they received about 25 entries from Fort Dodge and area schools for the Patriot Pen competition. This year, they also got several entries in the Voice of Democracy contest, which is for students in 10th to 12th grade. The Patriot Pen contest is for middle school students.
Simonson was proud that the winners this year were divided up among several schools.
“We had a winner from Fort Dodge Middle School, St. Paul and Community Christian.”
Abby Cook, 13, a seventh-grade student at Community Christian, won first place.
She began her essay by honoring her dad, Keith Bryhne, a retired U.S. Army pilot.
“One of the reasons I honor the flag is because my dad served in the military and he fought for our flag,” she wrote. “He served in the military for 25 years and he went to Iraq twice.”
He didn’t get to read the essay till she was given her award.
“I’m totally surprised,” he said. “I’m proud of her. It’s very impressive.”
Mackenzie Camden, 14, an eighth-grade student at Fort Dodge Middle School, took second place.
She started her essay with a history of the flag and its symbolism.
She has relatives that have served in World War I, World War II and Vietnam.
“Honoring the flag,” she wrote, “is honoring the sacrifices that my family has made and gone through, as well as all other military members.”
He mom, Shannon Camden, watched her daughter collect her award.
“I’m very proud of Mackenzie,” she said. “She worked hard on her essay.”
Tiffany Garber, 12, a sixth-grade student at St. Paul Lutheran School, took third place.
She gave three reasons to honor the flag in her essay: “To remember all the servicemen and women that sacrificed their lives for America. The second reason is to honor the first responders. We honor firefighters, police and EMTs that keep us from any harm and danger. The third reason it to respect the country itself.”
Her dad, Tom Garber, was on hand to watch the presentation.
“It’s pretty awesome,” he said.
Kylie Weiland, 16, a junior at Southeast Valley High School, was selected as the winner in the Voice of Democracy category for the older students.
It was her first year entering.
“My dad suggested it and I like writing,” she said.
Her topic was Why Voting Matters.
“Our opportunity, our right and our need to vote is why your vote matters,” she wrote. “My vote matters, everyone’s vote matters.”
Her dad, Chris Weiland, is the post commander. He said that she’s lived through seeing his own service during his multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan has placed her in a unique position of understanding.
He even cracked a rare smile.
“She’s doing well,” he said.
The awards were presented by Simonson and Weiland along with Auxiliary Senior Vice President Laura Eastwood.
First-place winners have their essays go onto to a district level competition.