Patriot’s Pen essay contest winners recognized

Patriot’s Pen, a national program of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, is an annual program that invites middle school students in grades six to eight to submit an essay based on a theme selected by the military organization’s national commander. This year’s prompt was “How are you inspired by America?”


Coal City Middle School had 321 students or 64 percent of its student body submit an essay to St. Juvin Post 1336, the local VFW chapter. The Post is allowed to submit one essay per each 15 received for judging at the district level. This year the veterans organization submitted 21 essays for judging in Illinois VFW’s 18th District, the largest number of submissions out of 11 VFW organizations in the district. 


The 21 essays moving on to the district level were written by Max Christensen, Daniel Fite, Autumn Garza, Cameron Haas, Lauren Jacovec, Leah Jensen, Emerson Koehn, Darcie Ladas, Avery Male, Jacob Munsterman, Kinsley Nowak, Audrina Nugent, Andrew Obert, Heli Patel, Abigail Rose, Gavin Roudis, Alyson Shelton, Benjamin Stalter, Reed Sulzberger, Promise Walker and Cash Wetenkamp. The students were recognized by the Post and Coal City Community Unit School District 1 Board of Education on Wednesday, Feb. 7. Each of the students received a certificate and gift from Post 1336.


The essay written by Daniel Fite received second place honors at the district level and in recognition of this he was presented with a certificate and monetary awards from the 18th District VFW and Post 1336. 


“This group of young people here are the future of our country. They are going to be the leaders some day,” Commander Phillips said.  


The Patriot’s Pen project is coordinated locally with assistance from middle school social studies teacher Jim Hitchcock, a U.S. Army veteran. Several middle school staff members assist Hitchcock and Post 1336 in reviewing the hundreds of essays each year. 


In addition to Patriot’s Pen, Post 1336’s partnership with the school district includes presentations on the Vietnam War for students at Coal City High School and a flag presentation for Intermediate School students.