VFW awards student essayists

A way with words: Pictured are (from left) VFW Dist. 1 Cmdr. Clifford Jeffries, Patriot Pen Chairman Solomon Stark, 1st place essay contest winner Farah Nasher, 2nd place winner Michael Carroll, Labrum teacher Sandy Knight, 3rd place winner Timothy Walton and VFW Post 6617 Cmdr. Israel Wolmark. BILL ACHUFF / FOR THE TIMES

Timothy Walton appreciates America’s veterans because they risked their lives to protect the nation’s freedom. Michael Carroll admires veterans because they fight for what they believe. Farah Nasher looks to veterans as inspirational role models.

All three John Hancock Demonstration Middle School, Labrum Campus students have delivered their own measure of inspiration through their contributions to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6617 Patriot Pen essay contest.

The students, all eighth-graders, were among 56 youths from Northeast middle schools to accept the mission. They had to write about “Why I appreciate America’s veterans.” Nasher, Carroll and Walton did it better than any other, winning the first three prizes in the contest. In addition, the vets chose Nasher’s entry as the best in the city. It will be entered into the national judging sponsored by the VFW.

“Every year, it’s a patriotic theme,” said Clifford A. Jeffries Jr., commander of VFW District 1, which includes all Philadelphia posts. “It’s to keep the patriotism alive with the kids. Thank God Iraq and Afghanistan (wars) are winding down, but unfortunately so is the patriotism among the kids. This is a way of keeping it up.”

“I was new to it. I really like writing and I intend to be a writer when I grow up,” Nasher said. “All the veterans interested me. I was inspired by them.”

“She reads a lot and writes a lot at home. She loves to express how she feels,” agreed Farah’s dad, Omar Nasher.

Jeffries, a Vietnam War veteran, also is a member of the Northeast’s Cpl. Michael J. Crescenz Post 2819. That’s the former Rising Sun post in Lawncrest that was recently rededicated in memory of the city’s lone Congressional Medal of Honor recipient from the Vietnam War. For Post 6617, which represents Bustleton and Somerton, Commander Israel Wolmark and member Solomon Stark were among those to coordinate the essay contest.

On the city level, students from Presentation BVM, St. Martin of Tours, St. Cecilia and Benjamin Franklin Elementary School also contested for the prizes. The citywide winner earned $300, while the runner-up got $200 and the third-place winner got $100. All three will be receiving certificates of achievement prepared by the national VFW, Jeffries said. Also, the three Post 6617 winners earned $100 each.

While Nasher carried the torch for her school on the citywide level, last year’s contest was even more fruitful for Labrum, as all three District 1 place-winners were students at the school. It’s no wonder, as the school is named after another military veteran, Gen. Harry Labrum.

English and social studies teacher Sandy Knight is the architect of the school’s growing dynasty in the program. She became familiar with the annual essay contest while working at another school and has incorporated it into her instruction at Labrum for the last three years.

“The kids learn every year about the veterans in November, and I want them to participate in activities outside of school,” Knight said.

Students are graded on their essays and have the option of entering the contest. They must follow the instructions and rules of the competition and fill out the entry form. All essays must be between 300 and 400 words. So there are practical lessons to be learned.

“It seems simple to learn to send a letter and fill out a form, but some (students) didn’t know what the VFW was or what a veteran does,” Knight said.

Consider it a lesson learned. ••

THE WINNING ESSAY

Why I Appreciate America’s Veterans

By Farah Nasher

Labrum Middle School

America’s veterans are my role models. They are also heroes to me. I appreciate America’s veterans because of how they make me feel proud of my country. I am honored to be part of a great country that someone would respect enough to willingly endanger their life to protect its values. These brave men and women committed themselves to preserving the ideals of our country. Just knowing of a veteran’s dedication leads me to consider how meaningful the values of our country truly are. As I come to respect these American values as much as the veterans have, I begin to appreciate them even more.

America’s veterans are a source of inspiration to me. In 1919, President Wilson declared that November 11 was a day of pride and gratitude for those who served our country. The date is so important because it was the official end to World War I. In 1954, just a few years later after World War II ended, the Congress changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day. Ever since then, Veterans Day has been a day to honor American veterans of all wars. Right now, there are troops of soldiers, military forces, and veterans out in Syria fighting against a terrorist group named ISIS. We will all hope and pray that all the soldiers would come home safely.

Without America’s veterans, the world I know may not exist as it does today. Veterans are prepared to die for their cause. Many veterans witnessed many terrible things and went through a lot of tough times, but they were prepared. In their days of duty, the veterans were motivated to fight for things they held in the utmost importance. Today, I am wondering the dedication veterans have held for their cause of protecting our country. This feeling drives me to apply their attitude toward their obligations to my way of life. This attitude is to work hard and not to be hindered by doing what I believe is right. I think America’s veterans are the highest quality of role models. America’s Veterans fill me with respect for them. They encourage me to love my country. Veterans inspire me to live a life dedicated to things I believe to be right. This why I appreciate America’s veterans. ••