Jonesboro student earns national honors

Veterans of Foreign Wars Patriot’s Pen Essay Contest

One Union County student’s patriotism and writing ability has led to a second place finish in a national essay contest. 

Madilyn Gawyrch-Turner, an 8th grader from Jonesboro Grade School, won second place in the National Veterans of Foreign Wars Patriot’s Pen Essay Contest.

The contest was open to any 6th through 8th grade student. The theme was “The America I Believe In.”

The excitement began in the fall when Madilyn was awarded the Anna VFW Carroll P. Foster Post No. 3455 Patriot’s Pen contest prize of $50. 

Her essay was entered into the VFW District 15 contest, where she won $100, presented in January at an awards banquet in Marion. She was informed at the banquet that her essay was one of the top three finalists in the state of Illinois.

The Illinois VFW hosted the three finalists for a two-night stay in Springfield with their families this past weekend over President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. 

The students visited several monuments, including the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, the Old State Capitol Building and the Illinois State Military Museum. They were also special guests at Lincoln’s Tomb for Lincoln’s Eulogy. 

Madilyn won first place, which was presented at the state award banquet, along with a plaque and $1,000. Madilyn’s essay was chosen out of 7,000 state entries. This is the first time that anyone from the Anna VFW Carrol P. Poster Post No. 3455 has won the state contest. 

The essay then moved on to the national competition.

On Monday, Feb. 13, Madilyn was informed that she ranked second out of approximately 120,000 students who entered the contest throughout the country. The award was $4,000, bringing Madilyn’s total prize money to $5,150.

Jonesboro Grade School principal Tom Stark congratulated and expressed pride for her at a school-wide assembly which was held Tuesday morning, Feb. 14.

Madilyn’s winning essay follows:

“The America I Believe In”

 “When you hear the word America, what thoughts come to your mind? Do you think of our freedoms? Do you think of our brave soldiers fighting beneath our beautiful waving flag? Do you think of a young child dreaming of becoming president? Former U.S. Senator Paul Tsongas once said the following about America, ‘America is hope. It is compassion. It is excellence. It is valor.’ I agree.   

“The America I believe in is hope. The Statue of Liberty has always given hope to the millions of immigrants who come to the United States to start a new life. America is a place that allows everyone an equal playing field. America gives its people the hope of a new beginning filled with freedoms and opportunity, not based on one’s race or gender, but instead on one’s work ethics and desire.

“The America I believe in is compassion. When there is a natural disaster, such as a hurricane, or a horrendous tragedy, such as a terrorist attack on U.S. soil, I have seen our country come together. Americans stand in line to give blood. We hold hands in prayer. Our citizens weep for the wounded, but most importantly, we do not quit. These disasters actually make us a stronger country with deeper bonds.

“The America I believe in is excellence and valor. Our brave military men and women are who give us this distinction. In a time of crisis, it is our military who step up and keep our country and its citizens safe, so we can have the freedoms that we love.

“Ronald Reagan once said, ‘America is too great for small dreams.’ Big dreams, and the ability for those dreams to become reality is what makes America greater than any other country. Only in America can that young child really become our future president. Only in America can anyone have the opportunity to enjoy a countless number of freedoms while pursuing one’s goals. Only in America can we live a life that we choose while knowing that our military will protect us and keep us from harm. This is the America that I believe in, and I hope it is the America that you believe in too.”

The Gazette-Democrat

112 Lafayette St.
Anna, Illinois 62906
Office Number: (618) 833-2158

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