Last updated: January 15. 2014 3:54PM

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There are so many good things that come out of VFW Post 7547’s Voice of Democracy and Patriot Pen essay contests, it’s difficult to hone in on just a few.


We could talk about the patriotism it inspires, the young people who show compassion for country through their writing, the veterans and their spouses who do so much good for their community or a combination of all three, and it would truly only scratch the surface of what a great program it is and how much good comes from it every single year.


Last Saturday night, winners of this year’s two essay contests joined VFW and auxiliary members for a steak dinner, sharing their essays and fellowship with the group. It was truly a unique experience and one that every person present benefited from that night.


Young veterans and their young-at-heart compatriots mingled with the students, with each learning from the other. The end result — a stronger sense of value of one another and a greater understanding of why patriotism is so important. Not that these young people needed reminding, if their essays are any indication of the love they feel for country and the hope they have for our nation.


Hear the words of Midway Middle student Zachary Warren: “Patriotism isn’t a popularity contest. Oftentimes when there is a national crisis people jump onto the flag-waving, patriotic bandwagon. For me, patriotism is a daily reminder of what makes our country so great. It is standing up for what you believe is best for your country, even if that makes you unpopular.”


Or the words of Midway High student William Warren II: ” … it isn’t the capital building or the White House that makes our country great, it is the PEOPLE of this nation … it isn’t one race or religion; it’s all races and every religion that make it so … it is being able to step aside when the need arises or lending a helping hand when a neighbor needs you. That’s what sets our country apart from all others and gives me hope for my future and the generations that follow me.”


The words are strong, thoughtful and very true, and that they came from our young people right here in Sampson County yet another reminder of the faith we can still have in our future generations.


Love for country is important, something that should truly be innate within us, a thought and a feeling that isn’t fleeting but resounds in our attitudes and in our hearts every time we see a flag flying, encounter a veteran or hear the strains of America the Beautiful or any other patriotic song.


VFW members encourage that patriotism through such events as Voice of Democracy and Patriot’s Pen, and we are grateful. Even off the battlefield, away from their military duties these men and women continue to give and continue to set examples for the rest of us to follow.


We already owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude for the freedoms we enjoy; their commitment to our young people and their determination to keep patriotism a rich and important part of our community’s fabric only deepens our the gratitude we owe them that much more.


We salute the veterans for their commitment to our community and our young people, and we applaud all those who participated in this year’s essay contest, both for their hard work and their heartfelt words. It’s truly a testament of the kind of individuals we have in Sampson County.

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