Korbin Leddy, a sophomore at MHS, is Milbank’s first-place winner in the 2020 The Voice of Democracy Essay Contest sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the VFW Auxiliary. (Read his essay below.) In The Patriot’s Pen division, eighth-grader Brooke Schwagel was the top winner and Aubrey Fraasch, also an eighth grader, was awarded second place. This year’s theme is What Makes America Great? Rhonda Preller, senior vice president for the local VFW Auxiliary, presented the winners with a certificate, medal, and monetary award.
The essays by Leddy and Schwagel move on to compete in the district contest. District winners continue to the state level, and state winners receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington D.C.
The Voice of Democracy has been the VFW’s premier scholarship program since 1947. Students compete by writing and recording an audio essay highlighting a patriotic theme. High school students are eligible to enter The Voice of Democracy competition. Sixth through eighth graders, including homeschooled students, are eligible for The Patriot’s Pen contest.
What Makes America Great
by Korbin Leddy
The sun was just setting on a crisp fall day. It was a day like any other except this was the day we buried my great-grandfather under the big oak tree. At the memorial I overheard people talking about his years of service, something I had never known about. I asked questions. I was intrigued to learn more – it was like having my own history unfold as if I was part of a popular TV ancestry commercial. As the story of my family’s heritage unraveled, I found that my great-grandfather’s family immigrated to the United States from Germany and when he was old enough, he enlisted in the Army and served in World War II. The information that was revealed to me made me realize just what makes America great.
From when the colonists landed at Plymouth Rock to the immigrants that flock to the United States from all over the world, America has become a melting pot of cultures. This diverse mix of ethnicity creates a rich nation of innovative thinkers, brilliant business minds, botanists, engineers, politicians, and patriots. All these diverse backgrounds of people from all over the world have one thing in common – they are all Americans. Just like a tree needs to have roots to hold it firmly in place, a family, a school, a church, a business, and a country need to have roots to be grounded, stand firm, and be resolute in times of distress. This is what makes America great – our melting pot of cultures and diversity.
From my great-grandfather who enlisted and served his country, we can be proud of the many others who have served their country, are serving, and those who will enlist to serve. The brave Americans who protect our freedoms are true HERO’S. Serving and protecting America in times of distress is what makes America great. Without their service, we would not have the many freedoms we have today. Being able to have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and being able to vote during our political elections are just a few of the freedoms we all enjoy as Americans. This is what makes America great – our proud heritage of military service and the freedoms we have as Americans.
From that day at my great-grandfather’s funeral under the big oak tree, it made me reflect and feel a sense of pride for how deep my family roots are in America. Even though I am just fifth generation, I think about how America is intertwined with roots of families stretching across this country of those families who immigrated decades before my family and those who are just first-generation immigrants. We are all Americans, we all have the same hopes, dreams, and freedoms. When we come together as one, we are stronger than if we stand alone because our roots run deep, and this is what makes America great!
Pictured: Leddy Schwagel and Fraasch