The meaning of patriotism: More winning essays from Eagle County high school graduates

Editor’s note: Each year, graduating high school seniors in Eagle County can apply for a scholarship from the VFW Post in Minturn by writing an essay on patriotism. The Vail Daily is running a sampling of essays, with permission from the authors, ahead of the July 4 holiday.

Hayden Krueger, Battle Mountain High School

I personally define public service as the act of holding others and the greater good at the same importance as one’s own interests. There are endless opportunities to serve others in life, with some being obvious and others not quite as much. Public service can be in the form of helping someone across a busy intersection or even completing a project that helps thousands of oppressed or forgotten people out of their plight.

The beauty of giving back to the topic is that in the process of helping your peers or community, you additionally receive an enlightened mindset that is increasingly aware of the wants and needs of those around you. I believe that public service is the epitome of patriotism because it has the potential to improve one’s community, city, state, and even the entire country.

The definition of patriotism is “the devotion to and rigorous support of one’s country” according to Oxford Education, but I believe that it can be applied to any organization or body. To serve fellow humans requires a connection and love for it which perfectly embodies patriotism.

I joined the Student Council at Battle Mountain during my senior year. STUCO has allowed me to represent and help a community larger than myself while also bettering myself and my skills. My time on STUCO and my AP Human Geography, World history, and especially US Government has led me to find forms of government and especially democracy very interesting. On STUCO, we each have our own rank according to seniority and the topics and issues we deal with are directly related to our status.

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This is similar to the delegation in our democratic republic and an additional similarity is that we conduct votes on various subjects during STUCO meetings in order to find out what the public is in support of.

Through STUCO, I have gained an interest in the balance of power of different government bodies at the community, state, and even national level. I have shown patriotism for my school through my public service on STUCO, but I am looking forward to becoming a true patriot of the United States of America.

I plan to study political science in some fashion so that I can learn even more about how small groups of people are able to govern large masses of people. Someday I hope to become a lobbyist or congressman so that I can serve my country by giving everyone a fair chance to succeed and making the USA the safest and sound place to live and raise a family. To me, this is the most patriotic act possible.

The crowd braved the weather for the annual Memorial Day event Monday at Freedom Park in Edwards.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Grace Symanski, Eagle Valley High School

For me, patriotism is something I see all the time. From people that are around me to the news, I see it every day.

The patriotism I see that has made the most impact on me is the patriotism that the Ukrainian president has shown with the recent conflicts with Russia. From what I see of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, he is a proud representative of Ukraine. He is not just governing Ukraine, but he has been helping the fight as much as possible. He said “The fight is here. I need ammunition, not a ride,” and this quote shows that has dedicated to Ukraine and he shows true patriotism for his country and the world.

When I think of the word patriotism, I think of standing up for what you believe in and joining your own fight. Patriotism does not have to be a physical, one-time act, but multiple acts of good in the world one step at a time.

When you are called a patriot, you have done something that has made a positive impact on someone and made a difference in their life. Just like my grandfather. He served in the U.S. Air Force In Okinawa, Japan, during the Vietnam War. He was a man who was proud to serve his country and help others. Though my grandfather, who fought his fight a long time ago, and President Zelenskyy are very different people, I believe they encompass patriotism and inspire me to stand up for what I believe in as well as fight my fight that will make our world a better place.

Though I am probably not going to be fighting in any wars like President Zelenskyy or my grandfather anytime soon, I like to think I can make my own impact and be a patriot to my country in other ways. I think that patriotism can be shown not only through fighting but through art. A great example of this is Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze.

This painting I believe shows patriotism in a way that many would have never thought of. The artwork shows the fight that had occurred that would help the United States gain its independence. This painting’s rich history shows future generations how the wars occurred and what would later create American patriotism.

Art has always been a part of my life and I wanted to show my patriotism through art. History has shown that art can move people, and I think I could express myself with my art and become a patriot of my own.

The United States flag and the Colorado flag blow in the wind during the annual Memorial Day ceremony at Freedom Park in Edwards.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Kristell Henninger, Battle Mountain High School

Not all heroes wear capes and have unusual superpowers. Not all heroes have spider webs that shoot out of their hands or have the ability to fly. All heroes DO have something even greater than all these things; they exemplify selflessness and share it with the rest of the world.

The true heroes are those who have placed their name on a dotted line making an oath to put their country above all else. These brave candidates even make the ultimate sacrifice so that we may have the freedom and the ability to live. When you come upon the word patriotism, it is often described as this intense feeling of love, devotion, and a sense of attachment to one’s country.

Yet to me it is so much more. It is the ability and willingness to support your country in times of both triumph and weakness knowing that you may not come home. It is during turbulent times that it is critical to understand the term patriotism, like now as the northern hemisphere of the world is currently encountering a war. When I think of a patriot, I think that the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is the perfect representation of what it means to truly love your country and show this love through selflessness.

As head of the country, he has gone straight into battle acknowledging that he could lose his life. He does this because of his great devotion to his people. He does not run like a coward or flee yet embraces walking into hell, bloodshed, and death. He stands alongside the military and willingly puts himself i precarious positions alongside his people. He is the true definition of what it means to be a patriot.

Patriotism doesn’t always mean men and women who sacrifice themselves to go overseas to protect our country, but it also means standing on the front lines right here at home.

Emergency services such as law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics, and personnel behind the scenes are some of the most patriotic individuals in this country by standing on the line between chaos and anarchy to ensure we are safe and secure in our local communities.

But to be a patriot you do not have to be enrolled in the military or be a first responder. It is the pride that you show to be part of your country. Patriotism is appreciating the people that serve and expressing your gratitude to all those veterans and active-duty members who have fought or are currently fighting for your security.

It is our duty to be as thankful as possible to embrace our holidays including Veterans Day and the Fourth of July, become active members of the country by making sure to vote, stand for the flag, acknowledge community issues and help to fix them, salute, and sing the national anthem. We must honor those who do so much for our country and show our respect and condolences to those who have not been able to come home.

We must recognize that many have given up seeing their children grow up and have put their lives on the line. Many have not been able to return, nor did they have the chance to say goodbye or give their wife a hug. It is our responsibility not just as a generation but as a country to strive to be the best that we possibly can be. We must not waste away our lives that we have been gifted that others died for you to have. We must demonstrate love every day, we must use our time wisely, we must innovate, and live up to our full potential to thank those who could not come home! Any individual who is willing to lay down their lives for others in whatever shape or form is a symbol of being patriotic.

Brie Richards, Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy

Google defines patriotism as “the quality of being patriotic; devotion to and vigorous support for one’s country.”

Patriotism is the backbone of our country and is truly what America was founded on. I really like that textbook definition of patriotism; I think it is quite literally the United States in a nutshell.

I’ve grown up around veterans and their service to our country has inspired me ever since I was in second grade. I would always watch the news with my parents and relatives and hear many different sides to current events that were going on in our country. The conflicts that were often reported in the news were interesting to me, and so I dug deeper and deeper.

Eventually, that turned into an interest in crime and learning more about criminals and criminology, as well as our American system of justice. This has translated into my desire to study criminology and forensics in college. My true goal is to join the FBI when I graduate. I have always known that the FBI is where I would want to end up, and along the way, different parts of my life have confirmed that I want to continue to pursue that career.

This goes to say, I have never considered a different career, this is always something I have been interested in and I have never known otherwise. I want to continue to take all the necessary steps to work in our government and help to keep our country safe through acting as a patriot for the U.S. just like my relatives did in the past.

I come from a family of patriots. My Grandmother was a veteran of the Danish Resistance in World War II, and the U.S. Army in the Korean Conflict (as a 1LT), and my Grandfather was a veteran of the U.S. Navy in WWII, as a signalman. My maternal grandfather was in the U.S. Army and my Uncle is a retired Major from the U.S. Army. I have been surrounded as a kid by veterans and they have all shared with me the meaning of patriotism. I vividly remember, after my Grandfather’s passing, when the Naval Officer handed me the American flag, and whispered “With gratitude from the United States of America.”

But, I realize that patriotism is not restricted to those who have served and sacrificed in our military. As a patriot myself, I want to educate myself so that I will be able to contribute to our country’s pursuit of justice for all and to continue what those who have served before us have started.

Samuel Elliott, Eagle Valley High School

Patriotism means fighting for the guy on your left and the guy on your right. Although I wish these were my own words, this is something that I learned from Dan Smith.

Dan Smith is a local veteran and one of the 12 veterans I interviewed in 2020. It is safe to say that I learned something very important from each veteran I interviewed, but this message from Dan has always stuck with me.

“To be a veteran to me means that I have served my country and more than that served we the people. Because we the people are our country.” This was said by Harvey Latson III in another round of interviews in 2021. Harvey is another veteran who now lives in eagle county.

Both of these quotes have been very impactful in shaping my view on patriotism. They reinforce my appreciation for veterans who risk their lives to protect us. They remind me of the bond that many veterans share and how powerful that unity is. But most importantly, they show me the true meaning of patriotism.

I used to picture someone who is patriotic as someone waving an American flag with red, white, and blue clothing. Now, I picture the people in my life who fight for me. I don’t believe someone has to own an American flag to be patriotic. I don’t believe someone needs to know the history of the United States to be patriotic. I don’t even think someone needs to be born in the United States to be patriotic.

I consider someone patriotic when they are kind, passionate, and loyal. These are the qualities I saw in every veteran that I interviewed in 2020 and 2021. Many people I know who do not consider themselves patriotic have these same qualities. I hope one day I can change their mind. I want to show them how and why they are patriotic.

That is something I hoped to accomplish by broadcasting the stories of many local veterans. I wanted to show people they are patriotic because they fight for the guy on the left and the guy on the right.

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