Parade Essay Contest 2017

Congratulations to the winners of the 2017 Phoenix Veterans Day Parade Essay Contest!

We had more than 200 entries for our essay contest this year! Writing to the theme of “Silent Sacrifice: Honoring Our Cold War Veterans,” 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 a $150 gift card 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

Ethan Brown – 11th grade, Seton Catholic Prep; Teacher: Jessica Breen

THE UNSPOKEN HEROES: NEVER FORGET

Cold War “duck and cover” drills at elementary schools were a constant reminder of imminent threat.

One of the tensest eras of American history was built not on what happened, but on what didn’t happen. It was an era where there were no direct conflicts between the two enemies. An era where there were no formal shots fired. An era where we protected ourselves against hypotheticals instead of actualities. This was the Cold War, a 46-year standoff between two superpowers. My grandfather is a Cold War Era veteran.

My grandpa, Msgt. Paul G Agne, USAF Ret., enlisted in the Air Force right out of high school in 1971, serving over 22 years. When he enlisted, Vietnam, a proxy war between the U.S. and Soviet Union, was already going on. Everything my grandpa did in his military career was designed to prepare him for full-scale nuclear war.

Ethan Brown’s grandfather, Mst. Paul G. Agne, USAF.

He was stationed at Davis Monthan in Tucson until 1980 when he was deployed to Turkey to support anticommunism in the Middle East. For the safety of my mom and grandma he went alone, leaving his family for a year. Turkey was a dangerous country, with bombings and violence, but the Americans were there to support the Turks against the USSR. It took an amazing amount of courage to leave everything behind in order to protect the world from the Soviet threat, but like all veterans, he sacrificed because of his love for our country.

My grandpa said that serving in the Cold War was difficult in spite of not being a “hot war.” A majority of his time was spent knowing there was a real nuclear threat, tensions rising constantly, but he had to stay strong to take care of his family. Those in the military waited anxiously to see if the USSR would act, if a missile was headed their way or global war was approaching. It was a stressful time watching and waiting to see what happened.

My grandpa said one of the toughest parts was the effect on his family. The school my mom went to on base was kept on alert, just like the soldiers. They had nuclear drills just like we have fire drills today. The windows of her elementary school had heavy drapes as protection against nuclear fallout, and they practiced drills, hiding under desks with the drapes shut tight.

Fortunately, all the preparation for a catastrophic war was for a war that never happened. On November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall came down. December 26, 1991, the Soviet Union dissolved. The Cold War had ended. However, in some ways the Cold War and its veterans have been lost to recent memory. There was no parade for the soldiers when the war ended. There is no Cold War medal for the veterans. They are the silent heroes of a terrifying era in American history. The debt of gratitude we owe them for their sacrifices is indescribable. They are the heroes who stood ready at the watch, preventing the war that never happened.


2nd Place

 Ruby Price – 11th grade, Shadow Ridge High School; Teacher: Stacy Roberts

A SILENT SACRIFICE: THE MOST NOBLE OF THEM ALL

Much is forgotten to history. Sucked into the fleeting oblivion of human memory that causes a life-changing event for some to be non-existent for others. The service of Cold War veterans seems to fall under that category for many Americans. Those nearly 50 years of tension should be prevalent in most people’s minds, but we are finding that there is little to be said for those who served our country during those tumultuous times. For though the Cold War involved no combat, it was still a war, and countless sacrifices were made daily for Americans to live their lives in comfort.

As Veteran’s Day approaches, it is important that we acknowledge the silent sacrifice of those who served during the Cold War. It is safe to say that warriors are held in high esteem in our country. After all, our most popular sport is one where 300-pound men crash and tackle into each other, warring over an egg-shaped ball. Singularly, this speaks volumes on the emphasis on violence in our culture. This fixation carries over into who we value in our society, veterans included.

As Americans, we all love an invigorating battle of brute strength, but the Cold War was much more than that. Its battles were fought with words and threats, which are often taken less seriously in our culture. However, the Cold War was one of the most restive periods in American history. At any moment, the United States could have plunged into the third World War. At any moment, schools and cities could have been bombed. At any moment, the military could have been forced into action. Our veterans served with this fear burning in their minds, yet they pressed on.

On September 1, 1983, Korean Airlines flight 007 was shot down by the Soviet Union, killing 269 innocent civilians. My father, Donavon Price, was on the USS Coral Sea when this tragic event took place. Tensions were high and stress was palpable as the crew wondered what this act of aggression could lead to. They didn’t know whether they would head home after seven months at sea or be dispatched into enemy waters. The Cold War was filled with moments like this, moments of terror and anxiety as our country was pulled from the brink of war, time and time again. Should we not honor those who set aside their comfort, despite whether bloody battles were waged or not? Being a veteran has no conditions other than to serve your country, which is what these Cold War veterans have done, asking for nothing in return. They have sacrificed, though they haven’t shouted their exploits to the world. They sacrificed quietly, humbly, gracefully. A silent sacrifice; the most noble of them all. One that should be celebrated. Rewarded. Honored.


3rd Place

Craig Zeigler – 12th grade, Sunrise Mountain High School;
Teacher: Jennifer Kruska

THE ENEMY OF THE COLD WAR WAS FEAR ITSELF

War is a concept that has a certain stereotype in the minds of most people. It elicits thoughts of firefights in an isolated and faraway part of the world, far removed from the comforts and privileges of the United States. People are usually quick to acknowledge those fallen veterans who served in war and bear the scars from it. Their faces are typically promulgated over news broadcasts and tribute is paid for their fight against the opposing soldiers. However, this concept of war does not apply to a conflict that lasted for over 50 years – the Cold War.

A Russian nuclear missile on parade during the Cold War.

In the Cold War, our real enemy was faceless. It was an enemy as shadowy as the men deployed to eradicate this enemy. The true enemy during the years of the Cold War was fear itself. It was the first time in history where citizens scrambled to search the nearest dictionary for the meaning of war. The people were scared; fearful of an impending doom in the form of a nuclear weapon, where life would cease to exist before they knew it. Those same people scrambled to the nearest television set hoping to receive comfort and optimism from the words of the President, disregarding that they were already in safe hands. As a result, millions of service members were set to work. These personnel were sent to prevent the conventional war from ever taking place. They were dispatched from the air, sea, and land, as well as discreetly in environments where no one was ever able to know what really happened.

It is said that approximately 389 soldiers were killed in the years of the Cold War, a statistic that is not written about in the history books; nor was it shown on any news broadcasts. An example of this was an incident in 1960 of a U.S. Air Force ERB-47H Stratojet that was downed by a Soviet pilot over the Barents Sea. In this incident, the pilot, Bill Palm was killed, while ELINT operators Eugene Posa, Oscar Goforth and Dean Phillips, co-pilot Bruce Olmstead and navigator John McKone survived but were soon taken captive. These men could have easily been placed on desk duty and let each country’s respective political leaders talk it out, but instead felt an obligation that they needed to risk their lives in order to comfort the people. They were never acknowledged by the people, but their contribution was all that mattered.
These men dying for their country were able to give the people of their country the opportunity to see another day, to extinguish any fear, and to work towards a world of peace.

As the son of a retired Naval Commander and FA-18 pilot, my heart goes out to all veterans, the ones recognized for their heroic efforts and the ones overlooked. Let Veterans Day be the day of commemorating all of whom have worn the uniform of any military branch, and acknowledge their great sacrifice and representation of our stars and stripes.