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Willingness To Help Others Essay Contest


Colleen Newton
Fairview Middle School

As students, we are constantly making decisions that shape the rest of our lives. Each choice we make can forever affect our future, our impact on society, and the way others perceive us. That’s why it is so important to develop our characters. Even a simple notion can spark a lifetime ideal – positive or negative. When we help out our communities, we are influencing ourselves in a positive way that often follows us throughout our adult lives. Each tiny thought, word, action, and habit, changes YOUR future.

This continuous sequence of events, this transformation of a single thought to one’s destiny, rests solely on you and your willpower. Middle-schoolers are at a pivotal point in their lives – and we can choose the actions that are going to shape our entire future! In my lifetime, I’ve tried to make decisions that will be constructive in the end. Our opportunities are growing, and helping others can only increase these opportunities. I’ve always felt that volunteering and community service are something that we, as citizens, are internally obligated to do. When we find a cause we care about, a cause we connect with, we are able to dedicate some time from our lives for this cause.

For me, this cause was homelessness. When I walk around this city, I see people trying to make it by on the street, with nothing but the clothes on their backs. For the past five years, I’ve dedicated my birthdays to volunteer work – a couple of friends and I hold a lemonade stand, where we raise funds for the shelter, and I accept only gifts of canned food for people who suffer from homelessness. It was a simple thought that has made a big difference in my life, and I hope, someone else’s life. This sympathy for people living in tough situations translated into a little fundraiser, which turned into a yearly tradition. Helping people this way has really inspired me: since, I have volunteered with the Homeless Shelter and other organizations, and I hope it has contributed to making me a more compassionate individual. A quick idea has easily morphed into a cherished ritual, and that alone should demonstrate the impact community service can have on your life.

Something as small as caring about something can change the outlook of your future. Whether you have a half-joking notion to become an actress, or a probing curiosity for science, or a love for animals: this seemingly small idea just might shape your fate. The ongoing transformation of words to actions, actions to habits, habits to character, and character to destiny, is always following us – it’s up to you to decide if you want to make a difference in this world.


Simone Butler
Maclay School

“You must be the change you want to see in the world,” Gandhi once said. As a child you think that you could never make a difference in the world, but you can. It all starts with your thoughts. They soon become words, which becomes your actions, which become your habits, which become your character, which becomes your destiny.

Keep your thoughts on what really matters. Don’t clutter your brain with information that has no benefit to your community. If your thoughts are straight, then your words will be too. If you care about a goal it will be in your thoughts. Then, as the words start flowing out you will get closer to making that dream a reality. I sometimes think about how I can better myself and my community. After thinking about it enough I started to talk about it and before I knew it I was in the Hope Community kitchen cooking for the homeless. It’s always a good feeling to know that you can make an impact on someone’s life, but you have to think you can.

As you are acting out your thoughts and words you start to make it a habit to help. At first it may seem like going out of your way, but after a while it just becomes part of your daily life. Last summer I went on a mission trip to Haiti. There, I went to different orphanages and handed out shoes. It was a wonderful experience and you knew that you were making a difference when a child would smile at you. It really warmed my heart to know that I can help the less fortunate. You don’t have to go out of the country to make a difference, you can do activities like that in your home town. You would be surprised how a little goes a long way.

Habits are a major part of your character. If you have good, kind habits it will show in your character. While in the sixth grade I was given an opportunity to join my school’s Junior Beta Club. I joined because I thought it would be a great way to better myself. Since I joined, the club has done many things to help around town. Twice we’ve helped the Guardian Ad Litem by supplying them with Christmas gifts for their children. Even though I never got to meet the children, I knew that I did put a smile on their faces.

When I look back on all I have done in my thirteen years, I’m proud, and I know that I have a destiny to do much more in the future. I was able to take my thoughts and draw them out all the way so that they became my destiny. So even though I’m still young I know that I can make a difference wherever I go. Hopefully, Mahatma Gandhi would have been proud of me.

Honorable Mention

Alexandria Rogers
Fairview Middle School

I always monitor my thoughts, watching for what I think is good, and what isn’t. I do this now because once, a long time ago, so far I can barely remember, I didn’t. My thoughts were mean, targeting others. I didn’t believe that I would ever let them slip, but one day the words in my thoughts flew from my mouth. I gave no thought to the words either, until I started to act upon them. I acted as though I was better than the people closest to me. Soon, I couldn’t help it. The thoughts came in seconds, and a minute later they were flying from my mouth.  A minute after that I was acting like someone completely different, someone I never wanted to be.

I never gave much thought to habits, because for me, they were just another part of my day, something unavoidable. Today I spend most of my time erasing those habits and making better ones. It’s hard because those habits I developed so long ago are a part of me. These things that built upon each other are still haunting me today. They threaten my future, torture my past, and are with me in every moment of each day. I never thought that the things I said would still be impacting me so far down the road.

Hurtful things I’ve said to people caused my to ignore them, or them to ignore me, and now, I miss them with all my heart. Those are people I won’t get to speak to again because I hurt them so badly that they do everything in their power to avoid me. They resent me now because I spoke thoughts that were based off of the way they acted, which were just a result of how they spoke, thought and grew up. Today, I see those people and all I see in their eyes is sadness, resentment, and almost hatred because of little words that started as little thoughts.

So today, I monitor every habit, action, word and thought, because they make up the person that I am; the person standing in front of you. In my life I try to think less of the worst things about others, and more about their better qualities. I try to think about the things that they do to make themselves better people. My habits went from horrible; no studying, no homework, screaming and the like; to wonderful. I now work in my community, get straight A’s, and help other people in the position I was in just a year ago.

So on that note, I warn you: “Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Choose your words, for they become actions. Understand your actions, for they become habits. Study your habits, for they will become your character. Develop your character, for it becomes your destiny.” And always, always, remember that there is time to change and people willing to help you, no matter what.

Like this:


"What Does Veterans Day Mean To You?"

Age 10-13

1st Place

Gwynn Janelle Horning, Age 11, Reinholds

Why Veterans Day Is Important To Me

Veterans Day is important to me. There are a few reasons why Veterans Day is important. Here are a few reasons why Veterans Day is important to me.

First of all, Veterans Day is important to me because my neighbor, Jim Stamm, was in the army. I realized from him that the Army is really important. I remember that in first grade we made cards for Veterans. Most of the kids in the class gave it to the janitor who also was in the army, but I gave it to my neighbor. The smile on his face told me everything. I think people don’t realize how important Veterans really are. This is one reason why Veterans Day is important to me.

Another reason that Veterans Day is important to me is because Veterans fought for our country and that is the reason we have a free country. I think it is good to have a free country. It is better than a dictatorship. I’m glad that we don’t have a dictatorship because then we wouldn’t be able to voice our opinion. The reason for that is because of the army. That is another reason why Veterans Day is important to me.

Last but not least, I believe that Veterans are very underappreciated. So Veterans Day is a whole day that we get to appreciate Veterans. I think that maybe if we could appreciate them more they wouldn’t end up so sad. I think that in appreciation for Veterans we could help them feel more welcome when they came home.

This is why Veterans are very, very important. If we didn’t have them we wouldn’t be living in the country we’re living in today. This is why Veterans Day is important to me.

2nd Place

Izzy Miller, Age 13, Lititz

What Veterans Day Means To Me

Undoubtedly, the meaning of Veterans Day is swayed by the individual’s experiences. Some know a person who fought, and some were one. The words one very well could think of when they think of Veterans Day are loyalty, courage, and selflessness.

Loyalty is a very strong word. Soldiers are loyal to their country, even when it is grueling. These warriors get up everyday, renewed with the passion that allows them to fight for the US and its people. The loyalty of these people is incredible. Most civilians consider their loyalty to be to a friend. How soldiers pledge their loyalty to an entire country is beyond many.

It is not just the soldiers who need courage. When one goes overseas, the families of the serviceperson are also staring at the possibility of never seeing their loved one again. It takes immense courage to fight, and to let your loved one go. To countless, it seems absolutely crazy to risk your life. That is because they do not have anywhere near as much courage as a serviceperson does. Along with the courage that soldiers have in the field, they also have the courage to return home, knowing there is a possibility that they could be unemployed. While certain organizations are working to solve the problem, it is still relevant in our country.

No one can deny how devoted the people that fight for our country are. They are selfless. They go through intensive training so they can keep the United Sates of America safe from anything that could possibly jeopardize our freedom at all. Being willing to risk your life for others you do not even know. Carl and Beverly Tannehill could not have said it better. “Most of us have no idea the cost you bear in order to serve your country. We can only imagine how difficult it would be to leave family and friends behind to do the job you feel you need to do.”

Thank you veterans! Although normal people could never envision how much veterans do behind the “scenes”, everyone wants the people who defend the USA to know how much they are appreciated, whether we know how to say it or not. It is clear that every veteran can be described by using the words loyalty, selflessness, and courage.

Age 14-17

1st Place

Julia Leedy, Age 15, Denver

What Veterans Day Means To Me

Veterans Day holds a special meaning to many American citizens, including myself. Many members of both sides of my family have served for our nation, granting us peace of mind unlike many unfortunate countries. But it is not only we who are lucky to have our veterans. Veterans Day, to me, means that countless people around the world are safe and alive from the courageous work of some of the bravest people in our country.

My uncles didn’t like talking about what they did overseas. They didn’t want to remember the horrors of full out brutal war. But because of their service along with millions of others, safety was and still is ensured globally. They have protected and defended victims of war. Families sit at their dinner tables together to this night because of our veterans. I am always humbled that I have family members who took part in saving lives including my own grandfather.

America will always have negative aspects. We are not a perfect country. We are a country, however, that realizes on a massive scale how much help we can give and the importance of us doing so. America’s work that can only be described as frustratingly difficult is rewarded when the governments of friends and enemies alike move forward to create a more harmonic lifestyle for their people. I live in a country where fighting for good is not a choice but a must. That not only gives me pride but also hopefulness for our future.

Whenever I see a veteran or family of a veteran, I thank them and I encourage you to do the same. These men and women sacrificed their mental health, emotional stability, and lives just so somewhere, a little girl can play on the swing set with her father. Families and friends have more time together in a safer world. That is a level of bravery some of us can only dream to achieve. Veterans Day means that bravery won, some good conquered some evil.

Thank you to all of our Veterans. You have put yourself aside for strangers and don’t receive enough credit for doing so. I am grateful for Veterans Day where we can honor you and celebrate your service. America would not be the country it is today without you.

2nd Place

Gavin Grove, Age 14, Akron

What does Veterans Day mean to me? To me, Veterans Day is a day to honor those who risked and sacrificed their lives for our freedom. We all probably know a veteran, but have we ever taken the time to hear their stories? So many of our Veterans relive their war time memories every day. Many Veterans suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from all the horrors of war they have seen. Perhaps we could all appreciate our freedom more if we could see into the mind of a Veteran and all that they endured for us and our country. As famous American Civil War General William T. Sherman said, “War is Hell” and I believe him.

There are several veterans in my family from various wars. I’m honored to know they fought for our country. My great-grandpa, Paul W. Good, fought in World War II. I can’t imagine how many sacrifices he had to make in order to defend our country. Can you imagine leaving everything you know to defend our country overseas? The fear of not knowing if you would make it back or not? I am proud to hear parts of my great-grandpa’s war story from my great-grandma.

Veterans Day is only once a year, but we need to honor our veterans every day. If you see a veteran, ask him or her their story. Thank them for their service. Respect all that they have done so we can live as we do now. Without their bravery and loyalty to the United States of America, we may not know the freedoms we experience today.

Age 18+

1st Place

Susan Snook, Age 54, Akron

What Veterans Day Means To Me

Our country wouldn’t be what it is today without veterans. They committed the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. Veterans are separated from their families for weeks, months and years. There may be communication through technology, but it is not the same as having them in person. The hugs, kisses, emotional bonding and closeness are missing. We all know what it’s like to be missing them. But how many of us take the time to wonder what it is like for them?

Veterans who served during war time may have been captured and tortured. Something almost no one can begin to imagine. They may have been subjected to deplorable conditions. Can any of us fathom what it is like to be out in the middle of the desert in full gear with temperatures soaring in the 100s? What about in the dead of winter with snow on the ground in a fox hole with wet feet in wet boots and possibly without a coat?

Veterans care. When they return home, more than ever, they need us as much as we need them. It must be incredibly difficult to return to life and a new normal after facing the hardships they went through. They may have had to experience horrific events. We may never know how they really feel. Who would want to relive those moments? So many of them bury those experiences in the back of their mind, never wanting to talk about or think about them again.

And we must not forget those who did not make it home. They are just as much veterans as the living. Take time to reflect and realize that they never had a chance to live out their lives, start families, and make their mark in the world.

Veterans from World War II are dying off by the hundreds every day. There are approximately 850,000 veterans remaining of the 16 million who served our nation in World War II. We have memorials in Washington, DC, but we must also maintain the memories in our hearts.

Many of us think of ourselves. Veterans Day dedicates a day and gives us a chance to reflect and think of the other person. So most of all, what Veterans Day means to me is “thank you.” If you see a veteran, take time to stop…shake their hand and say THANK YOU.

2nd Place

Alan Price, Age 92, Lititz

What Does Veterans Day Mean To You?

I am a veteran of World War II and am now age 92. Back in those days we were told we were fighting to preserve “our free way of life.” I have read that more than 300,000 American servicemen died in the service of our country in that conflict.

In that war I was assigned to the Americal Division on Bougainville Island in the South Pacific. This island, with daily rainfall, has impenetrable jungle vegetation and our platoon had to patrol on paths long-established by the native population (a platoon consists of about 40 men). Since we had to walk single file, the first person was a scout named Lopez. He was Mexican-American from south Texas. His task was to search for Japanese ambushes. Believe me, this was a really dangerous assignment! But with some narrow escapes he survived. Then we were re-assigned to the Philippine Islands.

We had invaded one of the islands, Cebu, by means of an amphibious assault, still with Lopez, our scout, leading the way. Now our leaders felt Lopez should be recognized for his efforts and he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant and assigned his own squad of men to command.

On his first patrol with his new squad, Lopez was killed by a Japanese machine gunner. The platoon was devastated. We loved Lopez.

On this Veterans Day, let us all take a few moments to pray for those brave men who, throughout the years, have died to “preserve our free way of life.”


Other Submissions

Nicole Martin, Age 10, Denver

Dear Veterans,

This is what Veterans and Veterans Day mean to me.

It is important to honor Veterans who have served in the military and risked their lives for America. Veterans sacrifice a lot, leaving their home and loved ones, risking their lives, and having the risk of getting hurt.

My cousin is in the Army and I don't see him a lot. So I know what it is like for people that have loved ones in the military. They fight not just for America or its freedoms, but for all of us.

Most people might not care much about Veterans Day or they forget about it. I remember it and thank them. THANK YOU VETERANS! I hope that every Veteran will think about what they have done for us all. You should be proud. Thank you.

Tayla Todd, Age 10, Ephrata

Veterans Day Daughter

My Dad is a Veteran. He works in the military. He is a psychologist. When he goes to the Army on the weekend he does cool exercises by doing an American ninja warrior course or doing pushups, crunches, curl ups, and other cool stuff. Every year our school has a “Red, White, and Blue” day to honor the police officers, firefighters, EMTs, and the military. My Dad comes every year. I love him very much. This means so much to me. My grandpa is also a Veteran. Poppy served in the Navy. Poppy went on destroyer boats. They must have been huge. He saw dolphins, sharks, whales, and other fascinating creatures. I bet it’s fun to do that, but it also takes hard work. Veterans Day is when we honor our Veterans who served our country to protect us from evil and lead us to freedom. We should all look up to our Veterans as leaders. So say a prayer for those who are at war and that those who die may rest in peace with God. We love all of the Veterans and we should keep them in a special place in our hearts. Don’t ignore our Veterans. Treat them with respect and honor. Thank you for serving our country! We are very proud of you!

Jonathan Rathman, Age 11, Denver

Honoring Our Veterans

On Veterans Day, it’s easy to sit back and relax, but it is important to think about all the people who served in the military. These people charged into dangerous battles to save people like you and me. They risked their lives to help us and their country. We would not have the freedoms that we have now if they had not fought for our country. Don’t you think they deserve more than one day of our attention and respect?

Some people think it is easy to serve in the military, but they are very wrong; being a soldier is extremely hard which is why it is amazing to think veterans did it for people they did not know. Sadly, many soldiers died, but they were all willing to give up their lives to save many, many more. Veterans are amazing people which is why it is important to at least say “thank you” to them to show that you appreciate what they did for us and our country.

Another way to honor veterans is by knowing their stories. For example, the WASPS (Women’s Airforce Service Pilots) who patrolled during World War II were sent home with no veteran status due to male pilots who wanted their jobs. These people were forgotten for 33 years until someone found out about the WASPS.

Veterans Day is not the only time you can be kind to veterans. They would appreciate if you brought them a meal or a card at any time not just on Veterans Day. Other ways to honor veterans include praying for them, attending a special Veterans Day ceremony or listening to their stories. What are you going to do for Veterans Day?

Carter Sauder, Age 11, Stevens

What Veterans Day Means To Me

Veterans Day is a day set aside to honor all the people that served our country. Veterans have done many things for our country. Some of them fought on foot, or in the air, some even worked in field hospitals. All of the veterans helped our country one way or another. So thank you to all of the veterans.

First, I am going to talk about all the veterans who fought on foot. You played a very important and dangerous role. Thank you for your willingness to fight and help our country be safe. You also helped out other countries that needed help in time of war.

Second, I am going to talk about all those that served in the air. You risked your life also because the plane could have crashed or other things could have happened to the plane as you were flying it. Thank you for that risk you took in that major role you did.

Plus, I want to admire the big parts the people did who were working in the field hospitals. You helped the wounded soldiers that could have died without your help. You also showed wisdom as you had to fix and work on the soldier’s wounds. Thank you for that because not everyone can do that job. And I also know that women served as nurses and even some fought so thank you to all the women.

Last, I want all this to show that I am very grateful for all our veterans. Thank you for all that work you did to help out people like me. Because you fought I can celebrate my birthday, which is Veterans Day, in a free country. Thank you!

Denise Duchesneau, Age 45, Ephrata

Veterans Day Means My Grandpa:
Quiet Hero, The Greatest Generation

“How many World War II fighters are still alive?” wondered my son’s classmate. “Only God knows,” I replied. I thought about the WWII Veteran I knew best. “My grandfather fought in the War,” I said. “He was a marine. Once he experienced a close call with the Japanese in the Pacific Ocean; his submarine was forced to submerge for two weeks. He didn’t like to talk about it.”

My grandmother told me that little bit; I dared not to ask my tall, solid, stern and square-shouldered grandfather. Every day he solemnly rocked his favorite chair on the back enclosed porch and read the afternoon paper. My dad knew better than to tell Grandma when he found Grandpa sneaking cigarettes underneath that porch. Later, when I was a senior in college, Grandpa bought me my first car – a 1980s, gray, two-door Buick Century in perfect condition. After haggling with the dealer, he parked it in my parents’ driveway and asked, “So, how’d ja like it? You’d better like it, because it’s yours.”

My grandfather died in 1999 at age 77, from lung cancer. I still thought about him almost every day. “He had a good heart,” I said finally. “He was a good man. They all were. There’s a reason why we call them ‘The Greatest Generation.’”

Later that evening, I discovered the Veterans Day essay contest in The Shopping News. “Curious timing,” I thought.

Obviously, Veterans Day means my grandfather to me. His name is Michael Meter, and he is the best example I know of what a veteran is. He’s helped me become the person I am; he has always challenged me to grow.

My grandfather is the Quiet Hero, the Greatest Generation. He stood for what he knew was right. He believed in something greater than himself, and he was willing to sacrifice for it. To Grandpa, the United States meant God, family, freedom, hard work and humble living; these ideals are for what Grandpa fought, and determined how he lived. He worked honestly, lived simply, stocked up, saved up, provided for his wife, children and grandchildren, gifted generously, and above all, gave a quiet example. He honored keeping things to himself. There was respect in letting a veteran – or anyone – keep his experiences personal, and in understanding that those things inside were sacred.

I’m mindful of Grandpa, especially at this time in history when it can be hard to stand for what’s right, and a lot of the world seems to not know enough about God, family, freedom, truth, humble living and hard, honest work. Today, where technology makes everybody’s life everybody’s business, I remember my grandfather’s bravery, sacrifice, kindness, generosity and silence. There may be fewer WWII veterans living, but there are thousands of legacies, like my Grandpa’s. I want to make him proud by my life and self. I keep him alive by remembering always what he is: Quiet Hero, the Greatest Generation.

Patrice Mull, Age 54, Ephrata

Sitting with my grandmother, I asked ‘what was it like growing up in the depression?’ After a long still silence, I finally said “I can’t imagine”.

My dad was in the Korean War. All I know is that he served in the medic unit. He never really talked about it either.

My father in law and his brothers served in several wars. Whenever the topic of veterans comes up, my father in law bows his head. After a moment of silence, he talks about the war with pride. His body language and mannerism are in an honorable pose. Yet offering very little details. He’s proud to be an American and to have served.

There is a sadness in his voice and a wetness in his eyes. He says all the men came back ‘different’.

Different in a bad way. We have had wars for too many years. Today, so many young men and women going through the same ordeal. This type of history should not be repeated.

Recently NPR had an interview with the American prosecutor from the Nuremberg trials. Mr. Benjamin Ferencz, the Nuremberg prosecutor, sad “law not war”.

Let us always remember and honor our veterans. Veterans Day is a very special day. God bless America. A peaceful America.

Esther Leicy, Age 55, Stevens

What Veterans Day Means To Me

-        having your son in 12th grade tell you he is joining the National Guard

-        finding out that Boot Camp is worse than some deployments

-        traveling the U.S. to follow your son to graduations and deployment meetings

-        holding your tears to be strong for your soldier son

-        wearing sunglasses in the airport, so no one sees you crying

-        putting up a very small Christmas tree the year he is overseas

-        mailing box after box at the post office, filling out custom forms for each one

-        local churches praying and taking offerings to help the soldiers celebrate their homecoming

-        visiting with the wounded survivor

-        listening to the widow left behind

-        attending the military funeral of your son’s friend at Arlington Cemetery

-        having a second son join the National Guard as well

-        having a third son join the U.S. Air Force

-        troop greeting at the airport, as soldiers are coming home

-        listening to people who don’t support your son’s decision

-        watching your son grow into a respected, talented leader

-        watching your son choose a wife who will support his military decisions

-        knowing the soldiers have been told, “they will not all come home,” by God’s grace they do!

-        listening to your grandson as he misses his daddy

-        watching your son leave for his third deployment, this time in a very different role

-        writing to the soldier who isn’t getting any mail

-        receiving the world’s greatest hug from him at homecoming

-        making a magnitude of sacrifices

-        becoming instant family with any member of the military, anywhere

-        knowing that freedom really isn’t free

-        knowing you owe a debt to all wounded warriors

-        supporting soldiers and their families any way you can

-        being grateful for the country you live in

-        flying your flag in front of your home

-        saluting all those who have served and are serving!

Thank you all!

Nancy Probst, Age 84, Ephrata

What Veterans Day Means To Me

Veterans Day makes me very sad and also happy. Sad for the many who never returned, and their families, and happy to shake a Veteran’s hand and say “thank you” for serving.

How loud do I have to shout, to tell each and every person (all ages), we must never, ever forget our Veterans. Veterans Day brings lots of thoughts and memories to me.

Raising our family to be patriotic and to always honor our flag.

I think of the Veterans who have served, so we can still honor the flag. Without their bravery, what would our country be like? War is plain Hell. The Veterans need to hold their heads high and be proud of themselves and I know they are.

I also think of the thoughts locked in their minds which they never talk about. Veterans Day because of them we just plain down have plenty of everything, food, work, freedom, a free country. What more do we need? Nothing except keep honoring our Veterans and honoring Veterans Day and fly our flags.

Proud to be a wife of a deceased Korean War Veteran and also proud of our youngest son retired from the military, served twenty one years.

Fannie Shirker, Age 87, Ephrata

I was the wife of the late PFC Robert M. Shirker, who served his country in World War II. He was missing in action for three months. He was thought of as being dead, but then his mother, “Sofie,” received a telegram stating that he was alive. He was a prisoner of war for 17 months in Germany.

When he came home, we were all elated! Veterans Day to me means the thought of my husband coming home and being alive and free.

I really appreciate all the men and women who served (and are serving right now) our country so we can be as free as we are today.

Last Updated (Monday, 28 November 2016 12:56)


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