‘Why I’m Proud to be an American’

Winning essayists read to vets over breakfast

Veteran Al Ford, left, shakes hands with Ella Standerford, first place winner of Negaunee Middle School’s fifth grade Amercanism essay contest. Also shown are Laurel Hill, second from left, who was the second place winner, and Halle Palomaki, third place winner. At a Friday event organized by the local chapter of the Disabled American Veterans, the students read their essays at the Staybridge Suites in Marquette to a group of veterans from the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans, with breakfast provided by Jeffery’s Restaurant. (Journal photo by Cecilia Brown)


Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE — Memorial Day is an important day to remember and honor the brave men and women who gave their lives in the armed forces.

To get the community thinking about this holiday and show appreciation for all veterans, the local chapter of the Disabled American Veterans on Friday brought local service members from the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans to the Staybridge Suites in Marquette, where they could listen to three winning essays on Americanism by Negaunee Middle School fifth-graders. Breakfast was also provided by Jeffrey’s Restaurant.

The DAV aims to support disabled veterans through offering services and support, such as free transportation to Veteran Affairs medical facilities for those who are injured and ill.

“We do lots of events, but the big program in Marquette County is we have the DAV van, which is a transportation network to Oscar Johnson (VA Medical Center) in Iron Mountain. So we take veterans down, free of charge. It’s an all-volunteer program by drivers in the community,” DAV Commander William Weycker said.

The Friday event was made possible by community contributions, Weycker said.

“We were able to put on this event through the contributions of the community through our Forget Me Not fundraiser,” Weycker said, noting the fundraiser, which sells small lapel flowers, is typically held in August.

The three winning essays read at the event were by Ella Standerford, first place; Laurel Hill, second place; and Halle Palomaki, third place.

The topic for the essay contest was “Why I’m Proud to be an American,” and each girl’s essay gave her own unique perspective on the subject.

Palomaki said one reason she was proud to be an American is the freedom of speech.

“I’m happy to know that I can say what I’m thinking or how I feel about important things,” Palomaki said, reading from her essay.

One of Hill’s reasons for taking pride in being an American is the right to vote.

“I’m proud to be an American because everyone has the freedom to vote if you’re older than 18,” Hill said, noting that many countries don’t give women voting rights.

Hill, like Palomaki, also was proud to have freedom of speech.

“It allows society to develop and progress. Free speech allows truth to surface,” she said in an excerpt from her essay.

Standerford said in her essay that she believes the structure of the United States’s government is part of what makes it great.

“First, what makes America great in my mind, are the three branches of government — legislative, judicial and executive — which provide a system of checks and balances. This is important to our country because it makes sure that no single person has too much power,” she said, reading from her essay.

She also spoke about the importance and value of equal rights.

“Another really important thing that makes me proud of America is the fact that women have equal rights to men,” she said. “One example of this is both male and female citizens can choose any career they want, as long as they are qualified. This makes it possible for American citizens to pursue their dreams.”

Weycker, who pointed out that the competition was steep this year, also said the students’ understanding of the political system and the freedoms that Americans have was impressive, especially among the top three.

Veterans in the audience were also impressed by the three essayists.

“I’m so proud of them, because without them, we’re liable to repeat ourselves in conflicts and wars,” said veteran Al Ford. “We have a good defense thanks to all of the veterans that have served their country, at home and abroad.”

The local chapter of DAV encourages everyone to attend local Memorial Day ceremonies. In Marquette, they will be held at 9:30 a.m. in Park Cemetery and at 10:15 a.m. at Holy Cross Cemetery.

They also encourage community members to volunteer with the DAV to provide transportation to VA medical facilities for veterans who are injured or ill, as they are in need of volunteers.

For more information on how to volunteer, call 906-272-6191 or email DAVchapter22Marquette@gmail.com. To stay up-to-date with the local DAV chapter, visit facebook.com/DavChapter22MarquetteMichigan.

Organizers also noted that volunteer opportunities to visit with and support veterans are available through the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans.

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is cbrown@miningjournal.net.