Second Place Runner-Up in the High School Division was….
Read Victoria’s prize winning essay below...
Imagine an America, “Land of Liberty and Freedom,” not having a day to honor the patriotic men and women who gave their lives while defending our liberties and freedoms. One Patriot, Henry Carter Welles, wanted to ensure that this did not happen. Mr. Welles wanted to be sure that we did not forget the reason why the Civil War was fought and those soldiers who died in it, thus Memorial Day was born. Memorial Day, originally know as Decoration Day, began on May 5, 1868 as a result of a suggestion given by Henry Carter Welles at a social gathering. His suggestion was for the citizens of Waterloo, New York to decorate the graves of the fallen soldiers from the North. Today, this holiday is meant to be observed by Americans to preserve the memory of all fallen soldiers from every war, not only for those of the Civil War. Memorial Day should not be taken lightly nor forgotten, but should be honored and remembered, for the preservation of the freedoms that America’s patriots have secured for us. It is but a moment in our life for us to say thank you to all the brave souls that have stopped beating so that Americans can not only live, but also may live in freedom and pride in our hearts.
Last year I attended a Memorial Day remembrance service, where I saw thirteen war veterans being honored and praised for their valiant service. While silent tears rolled down the Veteran’s cheeks at the gratitude which was bestowed upon them they denied that theirs was the ultimate sacrifice, mentioning their friends who died in battle. Witnessing this was a life-changing experience for me. Even more real to me now are the sacrifices that thousands of soldiers have made. While I do not personally know any soldiers to die in war, I do know some who were willing. I owe my utmost gratitude and respect to these courageous men and women. We often use Memorial Day holiday as a three-day weekend and an excuse to have a barbecue. Our nonchalant attitude has replaced the seriousness of this day, a day put in place for the purpose of honoring the memory of those brave soldiers who have given their lives. Congress instituted “The National Moment of Remembrance Act” in 2000 because they felt Americans were taking their freedoms for granted and losing their sense of patriotism.
President Ronald Reagan once said in his 1982 Memorial Day speech at Arlington National Cemetery, “Yet, we must try to honor them—not for their sakes alone, but for our own. And if words cannot repay the debt we owe these men, surely with our actions we must strive to keep faith with them and with the vision that led them to battle and to final sacrifice.” For me, this day has found a special place in my heart and I vow to never forget its’ significance. Let us call upon Americans to soberly remind them that freedom is not free. The soldiers’ sacrifices mustn’t be in vain!
- Victoria Wells