Four local students who turned their thoughts on patriotism into essays have won awards in a writing contest sponsored by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1856 in Fort Dodge.
Victoria Butler, Chris Hatton and Robby Benson took the top three honors in the Patriots Pen competition for students in sixth through eighth grades.
Brandon Arkland took first place in the Voice of Democracy competition for high school students.
Butler and Arkland will advance to a district-wide competition in which their work will be judged against that of students sponsored by 11 other Veterans of Foreign Wars posts in Iowa.
Butler wrote about how patriotism sometimes seems to be forgotten in the country. In her essay she wrote about how Americans sometimes fail to honor the flag and veterans. She received a $100 prize. The 13-year-old is a student at Harvest Baptist School. She is the daughter of Robin and Rachel Butler.
In his essay, Patton described patriotism as he experienced it while visiting various historic sites across the country. Mount Rushmore in South Dakota and Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia are among the sites he wrote about. Hatton, 12, is a student at Community Christian School. He is the son of Scott and Kristin Hatton. He received a $50 prize.
Benson, 12, turned to his social studies textbooks for inspiration when he prepared to write his essay defining patriotism. He's a student at St. Paul Lutheran School. His parents are Bob and Jeana Benson. He received a $25 prize.
Arkland, 18, wrote an essay describing why he is optimistic about the country's future. The fact that his family became part of a larger nationwide military family when his brother joined the Marine Corps is a key theme in his essay. Arkland is a student at Webster City High School. His parents are Mark Arkland and Kristen Ruppel.
In addition to writing the essay, he had to produce a CD of himself reading it aloud.
The contest conducted by the local post is the first step in a competition that progresses to district, state and national levels. Winners at the national level receive an all expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C., according to Roger Simonson, a local VFW member who helps to coordinate the contests.