Essay Contest Winners 2018

Congratulations to the winners of the 2018 Phoenix Veterans Day Parade Essay Contest!

We had nearly 100 entries for our essay contest this year! Writing to the theme of “OUT OF THE TRENCHES: A Century of Remembrance – WWI 1918,” students were judged on Creative Writing, Grammar, Originality, Content, and Theme Focus. The winners will receive cash prizes courtesy of Durant’s Restaurant, a ride in the parade, winning essays printed in the parade program and more. AND each winner’s teacher will receive $150 for use in their classrooms!

We hope you enjoy this year’s excellent essays (below) – and look for the winners on the Hall of Flame fire truck in the Parade!


1st Place

Jake Marr – 11th grade, Seton Catholic Prep; Teacher: Patricia Nash

ENDURING THEIR LIVES IN THE TRENCHES: THE SOLDIERS OF WWI

Imagine a dark world; a world full of blackness and despair. The air reeks of rotten flesh and feces; the smell permeates every inch of porous garments. Food is a luxury; what is consumed is unnameable and unidentifiable. Mud covers everything; equipment, clothing, quarters, and food cannot escape the mud’s ubiquity. People from different walks of life would call this hell, a nightmare, or punishment. Yet all those who took part in this event were not being punished, but they could not leave. Some of those who saw the conclusion of this war did not truly leave it behind. After their discharge from the army, this sick version of hell on Earth remained with them. All of it hung fresh in their mind. These heroes could not get away; the wound never healed, it was continually reopened and closed.

The World War I trenches proved to be cause of mental scars to many veterans of the conflict. Numerous brave men endured their lives in the trenches and were privileged enough to leave them behind, but countless amounts of soldiers did not receive the same opportunity. It was not uncommon to be buried alive, shelling would throw enough dirt onto a man that he could not be dug out. Curiosity killed men as well. A quick look over the trench wall could prove fatal or disabling to one’s skull. Furthermore, even in the confines of the trenches, the mud and water could kill a man. The constant dampness around a man’s foot would cause it to become gangrenous and require amputation. No matter the situation, nobody was safe in the trenches.

One man knew the trenches well. He was tasked with repairing the trenches and improving them to better suit battle condition. This man was Sergeant Charles Edward Dilkes. He was the leader of a division of trench engineers. These men led by Dilkes would install first aid stations, create communication trenches, and repair damages done to the various lines. Dilkes’ position sounds like that of a non-combatant, but his every task was done under enemy fire. Sergeant Dilkes put himself and his division in harm’s way on every single mission to ensure the safety and comfort of divisions fighting in the mud. Sergeant Dilkes was a strong man who encountered the horrors of the trenches every day in the war.

Sergeant Dilkes went on to serve up until the signing of the armistice. As Dilkes was discharged from service, he collected his various diaries and records to develop a memoir upon his return to the states. His contributions to the war shed a different light on the trenches on the allied front. Dilkes maintained the very ground that protected and laid waste to scores of great men. Not every soldier can share the intimacy he had with the trenches.


2nd Place

Alyssa Canales – 10th grade, Cactus Shadows High School;
Teacher: Molly Gum

LIFE IN THE TRENCHES: THE IMPACT OF THE AMERICAN SOLDIER

It is November 22, 1916, at 8 o’clock at night. You’re tired. Your brain pounds against your skull, matching the ruthless noise of your comrades screaming orders at each other. You let go of your weapon and fall to your knees, immediately feeling the graininess of the dirt bite at your skin. You close your eyes – not because you’re sleepy, but because you are sick of having to watch the world around you. Sick of listening to your friend scream in agony at the sight of his bloody chest and missing leg. Sick of always being cold and hungry. You listen unwillingly to the sound of bombs and gunfire constantly blaring throughout the lonely nights. The stench of death and fear always manages to creep into you ‒ no matter how much you tell yourself you’re not afraid. No matter how much you remind yourself that you will return home, the doubt still lingers and taunts you at night. You use your calloused hands to wipe the dirt and tears off your sunken face. If the violence of the war doesn’t kill you, the living conditions of the trenches will. You’re snapped out of it by your fellow soldier. He tells you to get your gun and keep shooting. You don’t even know what you’re supposed to be shooting at. You just want to rest, but you know you have to keep going until sunrise. Maybe one day you’ll be happy to see the sun. You’re a 24-year-old man risking everything for his country. This is World War I.

The generation that gripped their men with hesitant affirmation and sent them to a foreign land to defend their nation is now gone. The men who put on their boots to fight for everything they believe in and set the example for the generations to follow have made an undeniable impact on our nation’s history. The century that has followed the event of WWI has been riddled with additional violence and sharp changes in our society. The world as we know it has been shaped and molded by the brave men that served in WWI. The influence of the war created an inspiration that was evident in events such as WWII, Vietnam, and the civil rights movement. The courage and utter boldness demonstrated by those who gave their lives in the trenches quickly became a motivating factor in the fight for change. In the last hundred years, our country has had to face evil in the face and spit in its eyes. Whether it be fighting anti-Semitism on a national scale or racism in their own communities, the bravery needed by these men and women was first clearly demonstrated by our WWI veterans.

As a second-year participant and co-editor for the Cactus Shadows High School chapter for Veterans Heritage Project, I am a firsthand witness of the impact of those who served. I’ve listened to the stories of those who have been on the front lines, those who defended us from thousands of feet in the air, and those who stayed home to provide moral, physical, and financial support. Listening to WWII soldiers whose fathers were WWI sailors, and being able to absorb the first-hand accounts of the struggles they endured and then being able to appreciate the life I have because of them is something that can never be repaid.

What was life like in the trenches of World War I? It was festering in your own filth and not being able to shower for days on end. It was slicing your hands and fingers on the sharp barbed wire surrounding you while you were just trying to complete your duties. It was wishing you were somewhere else, but understanding you had responsibilities and you needed to fulfill them no matter what. It was becoming accustomed to violence and consistent chaos. It was creating the impact of the American soldier.


3rd Place

Aliyah Galvez – 10th grade, Basha High School;
Teacher: Colonel (ret.) Clifford Stansell

WORLD WAR I: A PORTRAIT OF PATRIOTISM AND PERSEVERANCE

World War I is unique in that it was the first global war and although it may have been a century ago, the foreign policy and dramatic shift in culture still affects us today. The reintroduction of previous military tactics, such as digging trenches for shelter, were merged with new modern technology like machine guns and chemical weapons. The trenches of World War I were dug to protect the soldiers from enemy attack and represented safety in war. When a valiant soldier runs out of the safety and familiarity of the trenches, he is completely vulnerable. When the U.S. entered the war, many different groups ran out of their own metaphorical trenches to unite and support the war effort.

The U.S. was the last to enter World War I because Americans wanted to remain neutral and not engage in European affairs. However, minds quickly changed when German U-boats began attacking civilian ships, such as the RMS Lusitania. On April 6, 1917, the U.S sided with the allies to fight in the Great War. The United States left its own trench of safety, isolationism, and neutrality behind to fight the war to end all wars while also trying to prevent further conflicts by proposing ideas such as the League of Nations. However, the war created a lasting domino effect on the home front. Young American men were required to fight for their country, especially in the brutal underground trenches along the Western European border.

Famous author Ernest Hemingway served in Italy as an ambulance driver for the American Red Cross. Hemingway described the feeling of war from a young man’s perspective, saying, “When you go to war as a boy you have a great illusion of immortality. Other people get killed; not you…. Then when you are badly wounded the first time you lose that illusion and you know it can happen to you.” As young adults, they could never prepare for the atrocities seen both inside the trenches and the in-between battlefield known as no-man’s land.

The young men left the comfort of their home life, their family relationships, and jobs behind and became soldiers sacrificing their lives on foreign soil. The women went from being the caretaker of the house to rolling up their sleeves and dominating the workforce, filling in the vacated jobs left behind from their husbands. The children of World War I left the comforting years of their childhood behind as they were forced to grow up quickly and participate in the war effort on the home front while balancing the emotional trauma of loss. There was a natural sense of patriotism and perseverance seen in every American, especially during the Great War. World War I instigated political and cultural change that, 100 years later, still affects us today. We should continue to honor the brave that came out of their own trenches, making themselves vulnerable to change and leading the United States to victory.