What does patriotism mean to you? Essays from Vail Valley high school students
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.
Olivia Grayson, Eagle Valley High School
I watched her. I watched as tears streamed down her face, wetting the pavement below. I watched as she hugged the love of her life so tight that they were inseparable for those few moments. I watched her heart break, shatter as he let go and walked away. I watched as she ran after him for just one more hug; one more look.
In that moment, I learned sacrifice. My father has served in the military for 30 years, as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot. He has selflessly dedicated his life, family and time to the service of this country. Sacrifice was taught to him by his father, grandfather and great grandfather before him. He has moved his life and family around the world more than 20 times, giving up the feeling of a home. He has put his life in danger to save countless lives every day.
My dad is a true hero. However, the only way he could become a true hero is by having my mom right next to him. My mom was with him as he moved around the world. She was there for him as he came home, devastated because he was too late to save someone during a search and rescue. She built him back up again and shared her strength with him. I watched her say goodbye to him over and over again. I watched her raise their seven children without him. I’ve watched her, and I have learned my sacrifice and, more importantly, my patriotism from her.
My mom is a patriot if there ever was one. I have spent birthdays, holidays and important life events without my dad there to support me. But I could always count on my mom being in the crowd. My sacrifice still continues and will forever continue. Even now I have given up my senior year of high school, full of tradition and rights of passage, as we have moved to Saudi Arabia. I have given up my friends, home and entire way of life to support my father as he continues to nobly serve our country.
My father is not the only one who has served this country. My mom, my six older siblings and I have sacrificed by giving him up, just like many other military families. Patriotism is learned. Through what I’ve watched and seen, I have learned patriotism means sacrifice; and thus, the sacrifice of someone you love is true patriotism.
Kalista Farmer, Eagle Valley High School
Patriotism is defined by Merriam Webster’s dictionary as “love for or devotion to one’s country” but for me, it has always been more than that. Since before I could remember, patriotism has been simultaneously in the background and the foreground of every decision I’ve made.
When I made the decision to join Civil Air Patrol, my father’s time spent encouraging me and building my love of my country, just as he proved his during his time in the marines, was well-received. It meant a great deal to me to do the best that I could do and to be part of an organization that devotes time and energy to our country. One moment that meant a lot to me, my love for leadership and my country is as follows:
Using proper conduct I knocked twice and waited patiently. My tapping knuckles would be followed by two words, inviting me into my future. This interview would determine whether or not I would become a cadet officer. Whether or not my dream to be the squadron’s second lieutenant would become reality.
I think about my first day as a cadet. Opening the hangar doors to a Steamboat Springs Cadet Staff Sergeant screaming cadence so loud that you could hear his back teeth rattling in his gums.
I think about my dad, and how hard he has pushed me to be the best I can be. I remember that he spent time in the marines to give me the best life I could have. I think about all the Marine Corps birthday parties I’ve attended and the waterfall of emotions I receive when I hear the national anthem played at football games.
As the squadron did the mandatory pushups and situps, my commander cleared the fog that filled my mind.
“Join them kiddo.”
With a pit in my stomach, involuntarily I made my way to the back of the block formation, making sure that I had tucked my uniform tan shirt into my shorts, knowing that I was supposed to report to the flight commander — a staff sergeant — but avoiding that at all costs.
After a while I heard cadets giggling. Was it something I was doing? I looked around. No one was doing anything out of the ordinary, so I kept going. After my fifth burpee, I realized that I had tucked my shirt not into my shorts, but instead into my underwear, showing a brighter pink than the one washing over my face.
I shook off the embarrassment and the guilt and reminded myself that the staff sergeant I was terrified of was six ranks below where I was now. I thought of how everything I have worked for to get to this point had taken me from the back of the block formation to the front. I am the one calling cadence and savoring every tooth-shaking experience.
I think about the boards I have previously sat on. And how senior member Peck always asks the same question.
“Which historical figure do you see as a role model?”
Every cadet answers the same, “Orville and Wilbur Wright.” The first men to fly. Their ambition was the reason for their choice.
I crave deeper meanings. I want to choose someone who has more than just ambition.
I think about Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” He conveyed a point that was passionate without blinding his audience of understanding his pain, his people’s pain. He truly is a leader who has compassion for his people. That is what I want to be. That is who I want to be.
Involuntarily my lungs breath sharply. I know the potential for greatness rests within me, I can feel it festering in the deepest depths of myself. The idea that everything I’m doing is serving my country. The dedication that exudes me when I think of patriotism. I need a catalyst — something that will turn my passion into action. This will be that change. I exhale.
I think about how passing this board would be the ultimate test to see what I can accomplish next, to see if I can truly anoint genuine kindness and understanding onto my people.
I thought about the seminar taught by Chief Vasquez. The Chief explained that if we want something in life, if we want to be true to ourselves we needed to realize the things we were doing to harm ourselves, to stop dipping our toes into different pools. Not only submerge into the water but to plunge into the deep end. If we wanted to change for the better we needed to dive all in.
Without warning, I found my knuckles placed, for a second time, against the door.
This was it — all the drill, all the facts, all the skills that I have learned.
Still, with a slight tinge of nervousness, I prepare myself for everything I am about to face.
I will be ready for the interview and for the rest of my Civil Air Patrol career; the rest of my life. I carefully tuck in my shirt. I exhale. All in.
Words echoed within the oak door, “Come in.”
Claire Elise Krueger, Battle Mountain High School
Patriotism: “The love for or devotion to one’s country.” Patriotism may be seen through a display of fireworks, parades, images of soldiers, red, white and blue colors, and the saying of the national anthem. You may think of the thousands of men and women fighting for our freedom in this country.
These are the most obvious examples of patriotism. To me, patriotism means so much more. It means loving and believing in a country and especially the people in a country. It means celebrating the five main ideals of the United States: equality, rights, liberty, opportunity, and democracy. Without these ideals, people would divide under their differences.
The founding fathers believed our country, at the beginning of its time, should be based on the five ideals. Patriotism is shown through respect of these values every single day. We believe in the people who surround us, the ones who aren’t like us and the ones who are, because we believe in equality.
Standing up for others and standing up for ourselves is a patriotic act which shows that we believe in important rights in our country, such as freedom of speech and religion, and the rights to help others rise above obstacles like discrimination. We are patriotic and celebratory because we have the liberty of being individuals and expressing ourselves without being restricted by the government or others. Every single day, men and women alike are able to have the opportunity to have a satisfactory career, to learn outrageous new things, and to be who they want to be.
Lastly, our government is a democracy, so citizens are able to show patriotism by voting, protesting, and speaking up for what they believe in. In the United States, we believe that by enjoying our ideals, we are able to celebrate and love our country for how great it is.
Patriotism can mean serving your country as a soldier, but it can also mean serving your country through small deeds such as helping out your community, leading others, and wanting to make your country and your world the best it can be. To me, patriotism means that you love your country, the people in it, and completely participating in every possible experience and opportunity that arises by being associated with that country. Through the expression of patriotism by respecting our country’s ideals, we unite under our similarities instead of dividing under our differences.
Lauren Dirvonas, Vail Mountain School
Patriotism: a term that is incredibly meaningful, yet difficult to define. While to many patriotism means service, to me, patriotism more importantly means respect and pride. Not just for one’s country, but for every individual and their varying opinions within it.
In a time where our country is very polarized, it is more important than ever that we unite through our patriotism. Service to our country is embodied daily through upholding respect for others and having pride for our community.
Part of our service as Americans is honoring respect for others, despite our differences in opinion. When I flip through the news channels on television, each channel I find seems to consist of people arguing over political or social issues, pointing out the faults in their opponent’s opinion. The media portrays discussion of issues that concern our country not as conversations, but rather conflicts that simply aim to target another.
Instead of facilitating thoughtful conversation in which one tries to better understand the perspective of another, often our leader figures are more concerned with convincing the public against the views they don’t personally support. This is an example of what patriotism is not. Patriotism is having respect for our own country, and therefore all the opinions within it.
Even though we may not believe in the opinion of our neighbor, they, like us, are granted the right to think and feel what they desire. This means that we must respect the views of others even if they are not consistent with our own. It is our service to our country to facilitate a conversation that is open-minded, in order to better understand others. For this will foster the growth of patriotism in our country as we learn to respect the contrasting beliefs of others and connect through our freedom to express these views.
Not only must we respect the opinions of others, but we must also celebrate our freedoms, diversity, and compassion for one another as it will encourage national pride and foster patriotism. While we may not agree with everything that occurs within our country, mulling over our disappointment or ceasing to support others will only inhibit the progressive growth of our country. Part of our service to our country is having pride in our community and looking beyond our differences.
When we learn to celebrate our diversity and freedoms that make our society unique, we are enabled to work together to effectively solve issues that face our country as a whole. Through seeking to connect to others who are different from ourselves in belief, race, background, and culture, we can encourage the rise of patriotism in our country as our differences can unite us.
Though patriotism most directly refers to those who respectably serve our country in the military, one doesn’t need to be physically fighting away from home to be patriotic. We can fight for patriotism in our own country daily through embodying respect for others and expressing pride in our country’s uniqueness. It is our responsibility to our country to spread a connection between Americans through patriotism as it will create a community of individuals united by a common passion.
Through the rise of patriotism, the connection of our society will enable us to share and celebrate our differences so our country is a space where every individual can express themselves and has a determination to collaborate with others to make the world united by an open-minded human race.
Taylor Shroll, Eagle Valley High School
I think one important attribute of patriotism is thankfulness. I feel very thankful that I live in a place where there are people serving our country to keep citizens safe as well as I feel honored to have family members who were and still are a part of the military. I also think being patriotic means you must have respect for your country and have respect for the people serving it. Acts of service are ways to show your thankfulness as well as respect for those serving the citizens of our country.
This world has many sad things to it in from which many people in other countries cannot find protection. In knowing that America has military, law enforcement and emergency personnel working to make sure citizens stay safe makes me feel very thankful. Not only is patriotism being thankful for those who are serving but being thankful for those who are police officers or firefighters because they are still serving citizens.
My family has many friends who work in law enforcement and I think it is important for people to notice the hard hours they work and the selflessness they show in making sure others are safe before themselves. I also have many family members who have served and over time as I have heard more about the time in which they served, I was able to understand the time and energy they put into putting others above themselves. It not only affected them when they served but it still affects them today because of all the time they put into fighting for America.
It is vital for society to show its appreciation because we are able to live in peace knowing that there are chivalrous people making sure that others are safe at the expense of their own lives. Another reason for society to be patriotic and thankful is that even though some veterans may be done serving, they still may have gone through some really tough times in which they are still dealing with the grief or pain they felt. They still choose to serve our country knowing they may have to face tragedy and for that society should be very thankful.
Commiting to become a soldier or committing to be in law enforcement requires a lot of training as well as self-motivation, and courage. It takes a lot in becoming ready and able to keep people safe; therefore the people who are willing to put in this effort should be respected. They are giving their lives to serving others and should be appreciated for their selflessness.
There must also be respect in appreciating the sacrifices of those who have served before us. My great grandpa served in the Philippines in World War ll, he ended up wounded and ended up with malaria and these sacrifices show how he was selfless in the midst of hardship and that should be respected. Many other soldiers have had to go through such things and sometimes may have had to deal with worse than my grandpa, and it is important for American citizens to recognize these sacrifices that soldiers give. The amount of commitment and persistence shown in law enforcement officers and soldiers deserves respect as we are safe because of it.
Patriotism also should include an attitude of service. People who serve in the military are giving the ultimate sacrifice, but there are many ways for civilians to show their patriotism as well through serving others. Some of the ways I’ve learned to do this is volunteering at the Colorado Renaissance Homeless Coalition Center in Denver and at Gypsum Elementary School. The dance team decided to volunteer with the homeless coalition because we wanted to serve those who were not fortunate enough to have a place to call home.
At Gypsum Elementary School, I was able to serve teachers who may not have enough time to do all the things they need to get done. Whether people choose to serve in the military or serve as civilians we can all show our patriotism by serving others in our country.
I also am thankful for those who served to earn our independence from Great Britain, I am thankful that because of those who fought for our country so long ago, they provided us with freedom. Although it was long ago, being patriotic means a person still respects and is forever thankful that there were people who fought for the rights we as citizens have today.
Now it is important to recognize the people who are fighting to keep the rights we have as citizens in America and to respect what they are doing. Patriotism is so important in remaining thankful and being respectful for those who are serving and putting their lives before others. I will always respect those who are taking the time to provide protection to the citizens of America as well as I will be thankful for the freedom I have.
Alexander Hilty, Vail Christian High School
Patriotism is formally defined as “the quality of being patriotic; devotion to and vigorous support for one’s country.” However, patriotism is something much larger than that definition. Patriotism is something that can easily be seen on the handful of holidays that celebrate the United States, its history, and its people.
Although patriotism is not merely reserved for a few select days out of the year, it is visible every day in people’s actions. People act in a manner to look out for and help their fellow Americans. The clearest depictions are found in various volunteering organizations and our local police and fire departments; not to mention all the veterans, reserves, and active duty military members who sacrifice for our country.
These people all have the same thing in common. They all play their part and do what they can how they see fit to help protect, bolster, and help the United States and its citizens. To me this is patriotism: the actions that one American takes to help another American and our country however they can. I believe the American soil from which I came is a blessing, so I want to accomplish things that will help to enrich it.
Patriotism to me is taking the tools and assets which you were given, going out and expanding upon those assets and then from there taking what you have accomplished and learned and planting something of your own into the American soil from which you came with the intention of helping and making the United States and its people proud. Patriotism to me is adding to everything that makes people say “I’m proud to be an American” and doing what I can to help the country flourish.