(Editor’s note: Zack Warren won first place in VFW Post 7547’s Patriot Pen essay contest for middle school students in Sampson County and Clinton City Schools. Zack is a student at Midway Middle and this is his winning essay.)
I am an Eagle Scout. I began my trail to Eagle seven years ago as a tiger cub in first grade. As I have grown as a scout, so has my love for my country. Scouting has given me the opportunity to help my community and serve others. It has allowed me to see that it only takes one person with one good idea to affect positive change in the world around me. It has given me a love for the outdoors and a reason to protect the natural treasures many of us take for granted. And, it has taught me first hand what patriotism truly is. With all my heart, I believe you cannot be a scout and not love your country.
There are things, however, I believe patriotism is not. Patriotism doesn’t imply I agree with everything my government does or does not do. People mistake politics for patriotism. I have heard, “If you don’t support this or that, then you’re un-American.” I may not always agree with my government’s decisions, but that in no way means I do not support my country and the men and women who stand in harm’s way to protect it…many of whom have paid the highest price for my freedom.
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. Our United States of America, from its very beginning, was formed from the ideals and commitment of men and women who believed they were making a difference in America’s future and inspiring generations, like me, that have since followed.
I am patriotic because I am one of those people, and it’s my hope that I can build on that foundation. As a scout I make this promise:
“On my honor, I will do my best, To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”
I live the Scout Oath daily. By being an example and striving to do my best, I can make a positive difference in my community and in my country. That is patriotism.