Parade Essay Contest 2016

Educating our youth about the sacrifices and service our military veterans provide is a part of the mission of the Phoenix Veterans Day Parade. So, the non-profit parade organizers Honoring Arizona’s Veterans once again hosted the Phoenix Veterans Day Parade Essay Contest this year as part of the education effort.

Open to all high-school-age students in grades 9-12 in Maricopa County, the essay theme focus this year was the parade theme of “Welcome Home Vietnam Heroes.” A total of 113 essays were received and were judged on creative writing, grammar, originality, content and theme focus. First-, second- and third-place winners receive cash prizes courtesy of Durant’s Restaurant, a ride in the parade, publication of their essay in the parade program, parade commemorative items and group photos.

We are pleased to present these winners of the 2016 Phoenix Veterans Day Parade Essay Contest.

First Place Essay
By Dillon Shipley, Age 15, Seton Catholic Prep

For a lot of soldiers in the Vietnam War, DEROS, or Date Eligible for Return from Overseas, was the most important thing that they held on to in the last few months of their time. DEROS was something that kept our troops going, especially my uncle, former 2nd Lieutenant Rick West. As an officer he knew more about what was going on than the average soldier, but that didn’t stop him from feeling excited once he got bikerson the plane home. As his time got closer, he created a plan to take the cash that he had, $1,300, to buy a motorcycle and tour the country. Until then, his job and the job of others was, as he put it, “to keep me in one piece.” As he got onto the “Freedom Bird” – which was what the soldiers called the plane home – even though he was crammed in between as many other soldiers as could possibly fit, he could not help but think that he was happy to be there. After arriving, he decided that he just wanted to get home as soon as possible. Forget the motorcycle trip, forget the $1,300 – he just wanted to be home. After the flight home and catching a ride from some generous citizens to his parent’s house, he rang the doorbell. His dad opened the door, and before he even saw who was standing there, said, “Hi Rick.” Even though his DEROS had already passed, this was his true date of return. A week later, he was working as a lawyer in Champaign, Illinois, and remembered no more than a little discrimination against him because of his service. But what about the people who weren’t so lucky?

What about the soldiers who got spit on, shunned and discriminated against? Even though my uncle ran into some generous citizens who were proud of his service, not all people were like that. After all, as West points out, there “was no one there” to greet our troops when they stepped off the plane. Consider the people who came back broken in both the body and the mind. As my uncle said, it’s a “black mark on our country that we treated them the way we did.” The media and America in general had seen the very worst of the war, according to former Colonel Thomas Darby. Those people might feel like they never came back. They might not be proud of their service, like my uncle and Mr. Darby were. Their DEROS and official records say they made it back, but what if they never really did?

And most importantly, what about the soldiers who never lived to see their DEROS?

For the veterans, and the people who feel like they haven’t fully returned, our perception of their service has changed. As an American, I am proud and grateful for your service, and most of the people I know are as well.

Welcome home, Vietnam Veterans.

Your DEROS is today.

Second Place Essay
By Chelsey Osteros, 10th Grade, Peoria High School

The things that every one of our veterans go through and have been through is unimaginable. It is something that you may never forget. I could never know exactly what you all have been through, but I believe it shapes who you are. Veterans are heroes. You have fought for your country willingly and have done it with a pure heart. You have done so much good for our country. You have risked everything – not only to fight for your freedoms, but mine as well. You deserve to be honored and remembered.

rotc-cadetsPeople often ask me why I am so dedicated to the Air Force Junior Reserve Training Corps. My answer is always the same: because I want to fight for my country. The Corps has taught me so much. I want to follow in the footsteps that my family has left for me. I want to give back to something that has given everything to me. I try to imagine what being in your shoes would be like, but honestly I haven’t the slightest clue. The thing I do know is that every one of you did it out of love and respect for our country. The love and respect you show is courageous.

There are not many people who would fight for our freedoms and represent our country without a second thought. You all fought for one reason and towards one goal. The reason was love for your country and the goal was fighting for the freedoms we all have today. Nothing shows more bravery than the things you have done. I am so thankful for every one of you. You may not hear it often, but you are truly cherished. Everything you’ve done is remembered. You’ve given me the opportunity to do things, and the one thing that I plan to do is to make a difference, just as you have.

There is nothing that could compare to the things that you have done. There is also nothing that could compare to the sacrifices that you have made. To serve this country is to put your all into it, and every one of you have done so. You may feel like you are never recognized or you are unappreciated, but take my word for it, there are people out in this world who do what they do because of people like you. Everything that you have done has made this country stronger.

People like you veterans give me the courage to want to fight for my country. I will always remember the things veterans have given to allow me to be where and who I am today. I hope that one day I am a hero just as you are. I hope that I can change someone’s world as you have changed mine.

Thank you for your service and Welcome Home.

Third Place Essay
By Koriana Cannon, 10th Grade, Peoria High School

Thank you and welcome home to all the Vietnam heroes. Thank you for being brave and loyal to our country. Thank you for trying your very best. Thank you, Vietnam vets – you are truly American heroes.

Over three-fourths of you who served in the Vietnam war were volunteers. You volunteered to serve in a war that not many people liked. You cared when no one else cared. You saluted a flag that turned its back on you. You did not get the thank you and welcome home you deserved. Thank you to all the volunteers, draftees and everyone who served for America in the Vietnam war.

Many of you came home with PTSD. You still carry memories that burn deep inside you. You remember fighting in jungles and sleeping in the strangest places. You remember fighting endlessly for our country. You remember fighting for America’s freedom and America’s future. You don’t remember many people welcoming you home, so we want to say, “Welcome home, heroes.”

You sacrificed your lives for our country. Not just physically, but mentally. You left your families to fight, knowing you may never see them again. Some died for red, white and blue. Some died as worthy, proud and amazing American soldiers. Thank you very much to the 58,272 Vietnam heroes who never returned – you won’t be forgotten.

You are heroes. You are our heroes. You fought and died for us to live free. You were treated so poorly when you came home, and we apologize for that. We apologize for what you went through when you returned. We apologize for not giving you the welcome you deserved when you finally returned home. Heroes deserve way more than what you got when you came home. We hope you have forgiven us for our actions. We thank you and we love you for fighting for our freedom.

Thank you and welcome home to all the Vietnam heroes. Thank you so much for being brave and loyal for 19 years and 180 days. Thank you very much to the 58,272 heroes who tried their very best and didn’t return home – may you all rest in peace. Thank you so much to the three-fourths of you who volunteered. Thank you so much to those who were drafted. Thank you so much to the heroes who still suffer from PTSD – we hope you get better soon. Thank you so much for being strong and fighting for the red, white and blue. Thank you, Vietnam vets – you are truly American heroes. You may not know us, but we know you.

Welcome home, heroes!