Members of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 1254 have had a very busy week.

On Monday, three post members presented certificates of appreciation and cooperation to four local middle schoolers.

The middle school students participated in a nationwide essay contest called the Patriot’s Pen.

This essay competition is open to any child in the sixth through eighth grades.

The contest encourages young minds to examine America’s history, along with their own experiences in modern American society, by drafting a 300- to 400-word essay expressing their views based on a patriotic theme. This year’s theme is America’s Gift to My Generation.

Post Commander Charlie Cravens, Kansas VFW Commander Michael Holland and local post member Cliff Gottlob were on hand to present certificates to Shannon Angel, Macy Hodges, Joseph Thomson and Mackenzie Vickery.

Each student turned in an essay that was entered into the national competition and each essay expressed different opinions concerning this year’s topic.

“What makes the United States different from any other country is that it is up to the individual to make the correct choices to use those freedoms,” Vickery writes.

“This is what America means to me, the freedom to choose. Throughout my life, I will have the opportunity to make many choices — for example, choose the career I want, how far to educate myself and where I want to live.”

“I think the greatest gift America has given us is freedom,” writes Hodges.

“The freedom to believe in what we want. The freedom to choose our job and even send our own kids to school! Not everyone in America understands how lucky they are to be living here.”

VFW Voice of Democracy

Courtesy photo

FROM LEFT: Charlie Cravens, Joseph Thomson, Macy Hodges, Mike Holland, Mackenzie Vickery and Cliff Gottlob.

VFW Post 1254 also presented Arkansas City High School freshman Bella Wood with a second-place award in the Voice of Democracy contest on Tuesday.

The Voice of Democracy essay competition was established in 1947.

It is set aside for high school students and requires them to answer the theme of that year’s essay competition.

This year, that theme is “American History: Our Hope for the Future.”

First responders honored

VFW Post 1254 honors first responders

Photo by Andrew Lawson/City of Arkansas City

FROM LEFT: Arkansas City Fire-EMS Department volunteer EMT Mike Evinger, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1254 Commander Charlie Cravens and VFW State Commander Michael Holland.

Cravens, Gottlob and Holland also were at hand during Tuesday night’s City Commission meeting.

At the beginning of the meeting, they acknowledged the exemplary service of some of Ark City’s first responders.

Arkansas City Police Officer Matt Mayo, Firefighter-Paramedic Lucas Martin and volunteer EMT Mike Evinger all were presented certificates during the meeting.

“We’ll do this every year that I have anything to say about it,” Cravens said. He explained that each man honored also will be entered into a national competition.