Congratulations to the state winners of the Elks essay contest about "What Makes You Proud of America?"

The purpose of the annual essay contest is to promote patriotism. Participants are 5th and 6th grade students at one level and 7th and 8th grade students at another level. State winners are forwarded to the national level. This year all three places at the 5th/6th level of the state were from the East Noble area and submitted by Dr. Thomas Koerner, a member of Kendallville Elks Lodge 1194.

The contest is important because it encourages young people to think about why they are grateful to be an American. Too many people take it for granted.

Excerpts from the essays show patriotism and thoughtful reflection.

"When I look at the flag I am reminded of the many freedoms that are given to me and my family so that we can live peacefully and independently," wrote first place winner Naomi Schroeder of St. John Lutheran School. "I am thankful that I can go to church, have running clean water and buy the food that I want."

Her essay also states, "Being able to vote is beautiful because we aren't forced into being under the law of a powerful, forceful and unkind ruler. I am also proud of the religious freedom that is given to us. I am thankful that I can go to the church of my own choice and not be afraid of being arrested. I believe this freedom that is given to us is wonderful, mighty and a true representation of why the United States of America is a place that immigrants want to live."

The second place essay by Alexis Follis of East Noble Middle School emphasizes the important role of education, for example: "All Americans can go to school because of our freedom. We can learn as we get older, graduate high school and maybe even go to college. Because people have gone to school and graduated college and have become teachers other generations can go to school and graduate. Education is important to many Americans."

Jaxon Kitchen of St. John Lutheran School placed third. His essay included what the flag means to him. "The flag represents our country," he wrote. "When I see the white on the flag it reminds me of purity and innocence. The red reminds me of blood shed by our soldiers and braveness that our soldiers have to fight. When I see the blue I think of justice in our country. America has justice because of the laws that we have."

All three essays express gratitude for the bravery of the men and women in the military who defend our freedoms.

We salute the winners. The first and second place winners received monetary awards, and all three places received plaques.

We also thank the civic organizations and educators who work hard helping and encouraging young people to learn more about America, our form of government and our rights and responsibilities.

Members of the Elks, VFW, DAR and northeast Indiana's other civic organizations are critically important to our communities. We thank them for their volunteer service and leadership.

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