“Thank you for your service,” middle schooler Zayne Reich told VFW Post 474 Commander Dennis Morton when Morton presented Zayne with his Patriot’s Pen award.
It was another expression of patriotism Veterans of Foreign Wars officials sought to elicit through the annual writing contest. Morton and representatives of VFW Post 474 Auxiliary visited Fort Gibson Middle School last week to honor the top three Patriots Pen winners.
During an assembly last Tuesday, Zayne received $100 for placing first. Classmates Avery White received $50 for placing second, and Kate Jones received $25 for placing third.
Zayne said he won the prize on his birthday, Jan. 10.
“It feels pretty nice,” he said.
He said he wrote mostly about his great-grandfather, U.S Army veteran Millard Reich, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. Reich died several years ago.
“There was some pretty hard stuff he had to go through,” Zayne said. “One of his stories was that he was in a sugar beet field in Germany.”
He said he talked to his grandparents, Nick and Kathy Reich about his great-grandfather’s service. He said writing the paper got easier “the more you wrote and the more you think about it.”
“They sacrificed so much for us and we shouldn’t take it for granted at all,” Zayne said.
Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 474 Auxiliary President Sandi Stafford said Patriots Pen offers scholarships to national winners.
“And I think students in our area should be a part of it,” Stafford said.
Morton said he was proud to sponsor the contest for the students.
“I would encourage you to continue to study,” Morton said. “Do what you’re doing. Maybe consider serving some time in the military. It’s the most patriotic thing you can do for your country.”
Kate said she wrote about the post-traumatic stress many veterans face after fighting.
“I learned there is a high suicide rate afterwards, and a lot of people die not just during war but because of suicide, and their mental struggles,” she said. “I know some veterans who struggled with PTSD and things after war.”
Avery said she wrote about Vietnam veterans and “how the veterans really didn’t get welcomed back.”
She said she also wrote about how service dogs help these veterans.
“My mom works for the VA and I learned a little bit from her and about veterans,” she said.
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