Two students named winners in Veterans Day essay contest

After receiving essays from students across the 59th Senate District in Southern Illinois, State Sen. Dale Fowler, R-Harrisburg, has announced the winners of his Veterans Day essay contest.

One of the winners is a student at a Union County school.

Fowler said the contest was an initiative to increase awareness of the importance and meaning of Veterans Day.

Two winners were selected from this year’s submissions by a veteran from the 59th District: 

Will Smiley, an 8th grader from Lick Creek; and Sarah Flick, a 7th grader from Vienna.

“Veterans Day is the time of year that we remember the brave men and women who have dedicated their lives to the service of our country,” Fowler said. 

“To me, this essay contest is a way to honor the legacy of our military personnel and also give a younger generation a chance to reflect on the purpose of Veterans Day, and the true sacrifices that come with protecting our nation and our freedoms.” 

This year’s contest was open to 7th grade and 8th grade students throughout the 59th District, prompting students to write an essay explaining the history of Veterans Day and the importance of celebrating the day each year.

“While all the submissions this year were well-received and thoughtful, two winners had to be chosen, and Will and Sarah did a great job explaining the importance and legacy of Veterans Day. Their essays were well-written and stood out,” Fowler said. 

“I’m extremely proud of the work I saw submitted from the kids of our communities, and hope that this contest inspired some of our young people to reflect on the importance of honoring our veterans.”

The winning essays were being featured on the Senate Republicans Veterans Day display in the Illinois State Capitol Rotunda, a tribute to the military service and sacrifice of all veterans in Illinois.

Both students will have the opportunity to serve as a “page-for-the-day” with Fowler, either in his district office in Harrisburg or in Springfield on a day that the legislature is in session.

The winning essays can be found by visiting Fowler’s webpage,

Following are the winning essays:

Will’s Essay

The history of Veterans Day starts nearly one hundred years ago in European trenches.

On November 11, 1918, the first World War, a war like no one had seen before, finally came to an end. 

November 11, 1919 was the one year anniversary, and in 1926, Congress passed a resolution to make an annual observance. November 11 became a national holiday in 1938, and in 1954, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially changed the name to Veteran’s Day. 

In 1968, Congress moved the holiday to the fourth Monday in October. In 1975, however, President Gerald Ford moved the date back to November 11 due to the historical significance of this date. 

Although Veterans Day has changed names and dates many times, the ideology of honoring those who served and protected us has stayed the same for nearly one hundred years.

Why is it important that we continue to celebrate Veterans Day each and every year? 

Veterans Day and Memorial Day are two separate holidays, on purpose. Memorial Day is set aside to remember those that fought and perished while protecting our country. 

While it is important to honor the brave men and women that made the ultimate sacrifice, it is still important to honor the veterans that made it back and make sure they know their sacrifices to guard freedom are greatly appreciated. 

Veterans Day is a way to show that you care about the people that make life in a free country possible. 

These brave souls put their lives on the line to protect and serve, so the least we can do is dedicate an entire day to them. 

They made the choice to risk everything and give up their lives at home to travel around the world, fortifying the values of daily life we take for granted. 

Veterans have kept us safe for years and Veterans Day is our chance to show our appreciation. 

There are many reasons why we should continue to celebrate our country’s veterans year after year, but maybe the most important one is that it would be a huge disservice not to.

Sarah’s Essay

On June 28, 1914 the assassination of Austria’s Franz Ferdinand occurred. Franz Ferdinand was the heir to the Austria-Hungary throne. This event is said to have sparked The Great War. Austria-Hungary accused Serbia of assisting in Ferdinand’s assassination. 

Soon after the assassination Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Russia felt they were obligated to defend Serbia because they are all part of the Slavic Nation. 

As the war progressed, more and more countries joined the fight until this war became, in fact, a world war. 

On November 11, 1918 this gruesome war, today known as World War I, came to an end. The war was known as The Great War until WWII broke out. Then the war was referred to as World War I. 

The war ended when Germany signed an armistice and both sides declared peace. This is when a day currently known as Veteran’s Day originated. This day was formerly known as Armistice Day in remembrance of WWI.

While in the beginning Armistice Day, a day of remembrance, was meant to remember WWI veterans. 

We now celebrate this day in remembrance of ALL the veterans who fought for our country in the many wars America has encountered. 

When our rights are challenged the bravest of citizens take a stand and protect America and everything it stands for. Those citizens would be veterans. 

Veterans make many sacrifices to protect our country. Most soldiers leave behind their families and comfortable homes to endure death, pestilence, and famine. 

There was a common misperception in earlier years that war was not a terrible thing. People began to realize the falsity of this assumption when the horrors of war were first portrayed through photographs. 

When citizens of America who were not soldiers saw these photographs they really began to understand the sacrifices soldiers made when they enlisted in the military. 

Today we have access to articles, photographs, videos, and more that allow us to better comprehend what war is really like, which gives us all the more reasons to honor our troops. 

In a time where many of us take our freedom for granted and pity the small, we forget that others lost their lives for our freedom. 

Veteran’s Day reminds us to take a moment from our whirlwind lives and remember what veterans did for us, and thank these brave men and women for protecting us, our rights, and our country.

The Gazette-Democrat

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

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