Each year, the VFW holds an essay contest for students in Grades 6-8 known as the Patriot’s Pen. More than 130,000 youth across the United States take part in the contest.

According to the VFW, the Patriot’s Pen essay contest “encourages young minds to examine America’s history, along with their own experiences in modern American society.”

The Redwood VFW invited area youth to participate in this year’s Patriot’s Pen essay contest. The theme is “Why I Honor the American Flag.”

The winners of this year’s essay contest were Redwood Valley Middle School students Avery Sperl, first place, Grace Caraway, second place, and Kyra Toreen, third place.

What follows is the winning essay written by Avery Sperl.

Why I Honor the American Flag

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

At the start of each school day, my class would stand together, raise our right hands to our hearts and repeat the words to the Pledge of Allegiance. As I spoke those words, I remember gazing at the American flag and feeling a sense of pride and responsibility.

For me, those were not just simple words, they were a promise of commitment to this country to be a loyal citizen to the land that has become home to so many people and fulfilled countless dreams.

The American flag has a unique meaning to each and every person. Not only in the U.S., but all around the world, the American flag symbolizes freedom, pride, honor and responsibility. The red, white and blue represent unity and equality and the opportunity to make dreams reality. 

The flag also reminds me of our armed forces, risking their lives and making daily sacrifices to secure our freedoms and ensure the safety of others. I am humbled by their service to this great nation. These men and women know firsthand that freedom isn’t free and they are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice to protect our great nation. Our freedom is only realized with their sacrifice, service and commitment.

As Americans celebrate the Fourth of July, it is important that we take time to reflect on the symbolic stars and stripes and realize that all around the world the American flag has be-come a symbol of hope.

I love the United States of America, and I am filled with pride each time I see our American flag. It is the most prettiest of red, white and blue.