Why is the veteran important? Winning essays from Eagle County high school students | VailDaily.com

Why is the veteran important? Winning essays from Eagle County high school students

The colors are presented by the Minturn Mt. Holy Cross Veterans of Foreign Wars during the Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy graduation Friday, May 19, in Wolcott.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Editor’s note: Each year, high school students in Eagle County compete in the Voice of Democracy essay contest organized by the VFW Post in Minturn. This year’s essay prompt was: Why is the veteran important? The Vail Daily is running a sampling of winning essays, with permission from the authors, for Monday’s national day of remembrance.

Brigitte Noble, Battle Mountain High School

I entered the school’s dimly lit auditorium with my fellow classmates to attend an assembly featuring local veterans. This was a first for me. The atmosphere seemed somber, but also respectful. The stage lights focused on a group of older men and women seated on the stage, several in military uniform. Even though the veterans who spoke to us were as old as our parents, or even grandparents, the stories they shared with us were of a time when they were not much older than my classmates and me. They shared with us stories of sacrifice and hardship, but still managed to squeeze in a bit of humor. This was one of the few times I had seen my classmates this quiet.

I felt as though I were meeting living participants of history. The stories the veterans shared brought to life the lessons we were learning in history, social studies, and government classes. When we read in a text that “freedom isn’t free,” these veterans served as living proof. My classmates and I learned it was more than a slogan. Their stories spoke of sacrificed time with families, loss of innocence, and pervasive danger. It was heartbreaking to see some of the world’s strongest individuals cry when recounting stories of the men in their units lost in battle.

Veterans matter to younger generations because they provide first-person accounts that no textbook can compare to. They matter because they serve to inspire the love of and duty to our nation. Veterans matter because they remind us that there are things bigger than us.

Since that assembly, I have had the opportunity to attend several more veterans assemblies at school, as well as Veterans Day and Memorial Day ceremonies in my community.

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The community ceremonies are held at a park near my home appropriately named for freedom. These ceremonies are attended by veterans and their families, as well as many members of the community. While veterans are the featured participants in these observances, many other local organizations participate, making these true community events.

Beyond veterans-specific events, veterans are found volunteering throughout our community and often are community leaders. Our veterans assist those in need without hesitation. It seems their supply of civic spirit has no end because even after all they have sacrificed, they continue to support our country and society. In my community, the veterans raise funds to provide local students with college scholarships. Veterans matter because they unite communities.

It has become our family tradition to attend the veteran-led local Fourth of July Parade followed by a picnic. When I encounter veterans at these events or even just out in the community, the care and concern they express for me have impressed me deeply. They ask about my studies and athletics. They inquire about my college journey and offer advice. Without saying so explicitly, they communicate that we are all connected, and they teach me the importance of looking out for one another. Veterans matter because they have demonstrated that I matter to them.

Veterans are the building blocks of our society and the heart and soul of this nation. Veterans matter because I have seen firsthand how they inspire younger generations, bring the community together, contribute to the functioning of society, and remind us that there are things bigger than us.

Wreaths are laid across veterans’ graves during the Wreaths Across America effort Saturday, Dec. 19, 2021, in Eagle.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Caitlyn Whelan, Eagle Valley High School

When considering the question, “Why is the veteran important?”, my mind jumps to many things to be grateful for. The veteran heals. The veteran protects. The veteran honors and the veteran inspires. The veteran brings hope, understanding and pride, and carries out the legacy of our nation.

Veterans have done their best to heal and protect our country. One of my more recent experiences was up at Camp Hale. We, being my mom and I, joined a tour of the camp that helped me understand not only how qualified the individuals of the 10th Mountain Division were, but the lengths they would go to defend our country. Our guide was a historian, who along with veterans who were supporting the organization taught us about how rigorous and grueling their time training and operating out of their frozen camp was. The division had to learn how to ski with 60- to 90-pound packs of gear that had just the basic things needed to survive! Hand-picked individuals were placed in situations that no military unit had experienced before and figured it out along the way. Everyone on the tour was struck with awe and appreciation for their devotion to their mission and our safety.

Many veterans have not just served but continued sharing their legacy through the education and inspiration of children. One of the most honorable things that many veterans do is teach and inspire the younger generation. I will always remember how proud I was of our military on Veterans Day as a child. I remember as little as second grade, singing “God Bless America” and “America the Beautiful” to be followed up by the heroic stories that my parents, as well as my classmates’ parents and grandparents, would share about their time protecting and fighting for our country. Tales that would inspire and educate us about the sacrifices that were made. Their accounts show just how dedicated and committed these heroes were and still are to the improvement of our great nation. One of the most beneficial parts of my upbringing is being able to hear my parents’ experiences. They have found their time in the military very rewarding because they not only love giving back to the community but being able to feel like they made a difference in people’s lives. This has opened my eyes to the sense of community and pride that service members carry.

The veterans’ experience and the legacy that they bring to the world is one that should be shared and recognized more often. When veterans go out of their way to teach and support children so that they can appreciate, understand, and be grateful for what they have, I am forever grateful, as I know how impactful it was for me.  Veterans have taught me about my freedom and opportunities, and I in turn understand how lucky I am to live in a country where I can be and do anything. The veteran has taught me to honor, respect, and cherish the price paid for freedom.

My gratitude flows endlessly for not just the veterans that continue to give back to the community, but anyone who works to protect, serve, and benefit this free nation. I am so appreciative of what we are able to accomplish, so may God truly bless our veterans and America.  

Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek, left, and Claire Noble honor Eagle County veterans during the annual Memorial Day event Monday at Freedom Park in Edwards in 2022.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Holly Knauf, Vail Christian High School

A veteran is described as, “A person who wrote a blank check payable to the United States of America for an amount up to and including one’s life.” This description implies that veterans work hard, are selfless, and understand the value of sacrifice. These are some attributes that make them role models for many people, including me. To me, veterans are important because they show others how to act. They demonstrate hard work, commitment, and love — all of which inspire me and others to want to act as they do.

Veterans show the significance of hard work. I am a strong believer that if you are going to do something, you should do it to the best of your ability. Veterans demonstrate this. In basic training, they are forced to work hard and go all out. When they are deployed, they must work hard to win the battle, complete the mission, or save a life (or lives). Here, hard work is required, but they choose to bring a great work ethic into everything they do. I practice this work ethic in my life. While doing schoolwork, going to practice, or working out, I work hard and live by their example.

Veterans also know how to commit. Joining the military is not only a major time commitment, but also a huge mental, physical, and emotional commitment. Someone cannot just say they will join the military, go through basic training, and then quit the next day. Military service sets the example of doing what you say you will do. Everyone can learn from this, including bosses, teachers, siblings, and peers. For example, if bosses do what they said they would, the employees would be happier to work for that person, and more would get done. Commitment to other people is also important in the military field and society. By committing to someone else, you can build lifelong relationships. Commitment entails trust, loyalty, andsacrifice. These things strengthen relationships. My best friends and I are only that close because we do these things.

Veterans show the world what it looks like to love and care about something or someone else other than themselves. I have grown up in a generation filled with social media. So many people care about the number of likes their own posts get or how many “friends” they have online. Most veterans’ primary care is for their nation and their comrades. This reveals their selflessness.

Another thing that displays selflessness is their willingness to sacrifice everything, including their life. This is the ultimate example of how we should act. Everyone should be able to make some sort of sacrifice for someone else. I have met veterans that will stay hours after an event or get there early to help set up or clean up the space. These people never complain about giving up their time, but instead, help with a caring heart.

These same veterans have also shown that they care about other youth in the community and me. They ask questions and seem genuinely interested in my answers and what I have to say. I can feel how much they care when they talk to me. I can only imagine how much they love their comrades that they are deployed with. This is important because a successful society needs people to love each other. Beyond loving other people, most veterans love America and are proud to be an American. If you live in a country, you should love that country. Veterans do. This serves as an example to other Americans, especially in our current time of division in our country.

Clearly, veterans are important. Not only do veterans serve in the military, but they also serve as an example. Most are exemplary citizens and embody how people should live their lives and act toward one another. If everyone saw this importance and tried to live a life by the characteristics of a veteran, society would be a better place. That is why veterans are so important and how they can inspire others to live as they do. They definitely inspire me to do so.

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