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Press photo by Elsa KerschnerFrom left, Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary President Karen Bandzi, essay winners Martin Cuchran, Cole Clapp and Julia Pletz and VFW Commander Carl Ellis stand on the porch of VFW Post 7215, Walnutport. Press photo by Elsa KerschnerFrom left, Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary President Karen Bandzi, essay winners Martin Cuchran, Cole Clapp and Julia Pletz and VFW Commander Carl Ellis stand on the porch of VFW Post 7215, Walnutport.

NAMS students win Patriot’s Pen essay contest

Thursday, April 21, 2016 by Elsa Kerschner ekerschner@tnonline.com in School

The Auxiliary to the R. W. Fritzinger VFW Post 7215, Walnutport, honored the winners of the Patriot’s Pen essay contest March 26. The theme for this year’s entries was What Freedom Means to Me.

Karen Bandzi, auxiliary president, introduced special guests for the event. They were Tom Brown, state junior vice commander; John Getz, state adjutant and quartermaster; Donna Mills, state senior vice president; Ron Byrd, District 20 commander; and Guyette Calles, District 20 president.

Chaplain Sue Bortz gave the invocation. Bandzi said each of the eight winners, all students at Northampton Area Middle School, will receive a Patriot’s Pen book bag, a certificate and a gift card from Walmart. The gift card was for $150, first place; $100, second; $75, third; $50, fourth and fifth; and $25, sixth through eighth.

First-place winner Nicholas Heefner said in his essay freedom is a gift and a privilege. It is freedom that lets him go to school and learn. It gives him the right to express himself by writing to his congressman, the governor or the president and let them know what might make this country better.

His parents are Scott and Stacey Heefner.

Julia Pletz placed second at the post and fifth in the district contest. She quoted Franklin D. Roosevelt, who said, “We and all others who believe in freedom as deeply as we do would rather die on our feet than live on our knees.”

The importance of freedom is so strong, and some people don’t realize men and women who serve in our military risk their lives fighting thousands of miles away from their families and the place they call home to protect these rights that make a huge impact on everyday lives, she said.

Her parents are John and MaryJo Pletz.

Third place was earned by Kyle Perl. He said each day he wakes up with choices, and in other countries, they don’t have a choice. Freedom allows him to buy, own and sell. It means we can live where we want to live and go to a church of choice.

Freedom is possible for him and everyone in the United States of America because of our country men and women who have and still are sacrificing and dying for it.

His parents are Kevin and Tracy Perl.

Cole Clapp placed fourth. He said the definition of freedom is the power or right to act, speak or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.

But for him it is a lot more than a word in the dictionary. It’s the 2.8 million casualties that died for our country. Freedom is a conception, a perception and an opinion.

His parents are Richard and Alyssa Clapp.

Martin Cuchran, fifth-place winner and fourth in districts, said if not for the soldiers, our lives would be different. The First Amendment allows us to practice any religion we want. Without that amendment, his family’s traditions would be changed.

The Ninth Amendment gives him freedom of career choice, travel and home ownership.

His parents are Michael and Paula Cuchran.

Sixth-place winner Isaac Harris was third in districts. He said we are given freedom, such as the right to vote, to practice any religion and to have our own opinions and ideas.

His parents always tell him freedom comes with responsibilities.

His parents are Laurance and Erin Harris.

Seventh-place winner Alexis Chamberlain said she automatically thinks of our rights as individuals when she hears the word freedom.

She thanks each and every one of the current and former veterans because they impacted Americans more than people realize. Her grandfather, who was in the Air Force, told her and her brother stories of his time in the military.

Her parents are Brad and April Chamberlain.

Vanessa Grabovitz placed eighth. She quoted former President Ronald Reagan, who said freedom “must be fought for, protected and handed on for the next generation to do the same.” She credits Abraham Lincoln for giving freedom to the slaves.

Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks stood for freedom and changed the world around them.

Her parents are Andrew and Melissa Grabovitz.

Getz said these students are the ones that make things happen. It is a tough job to pick winners. They are all first class, and their parents help them understand what it means to be a soldier and what they have done for freedom.