Patriots Pen contest

Photo by D.J. DeJong

Salida Middle School students celebrate their Veterans of Foreign Wars’ 2020 Patriots Pen contest awards from Angel of Shavano Post No. 3820. From left: Ruby Mossman, fourth place, Ethan Fast, third place, Zeke Wilcox, second place and Athena Smith, first place. Wilcox and Smith reversed places in the district level contest.

by D.J. DeJong

Mail Staff Writer

Two Salida Middle School students placed first and second in the Veterans of Foreign Wars 2020 Patriots Pen essay contest at the district level.

Eighth-graders Zeke Wilcox and Athena Smith came in first and second place respectively in Colorado VFW District 8, which includes posts in Salida, Buena Vista, Bailey, Minturn, Lake George and Conifer.

Wilcox will advance to compete at the state level for a chance to represent Colorado at the National competition.

The amount of the district prize for the two will be announced when those awards are presented.

At the post level Angel of Shavano VFW Post No. 3820 awarded first place honors to Smith, with a prize of $150 and second place to Wilcox, with a prize of $100.

Other winners at the post level were Ethan Fast with a $50 prize and Ruby Mossman in fourth with a $25 prize.

VFW post officers Glenn Mallory and Jerry Cunningham presented the awards and checks to the students at a ceremony Thursday at the middle school gym.

Mallory said when he was informed of the district wins, he was asked, “what is in the water in Salida” that created so many essay contest winners.

He said he responded it’s not the water, it’s Mrs. Tressler.

Amy Tressler, eighth-grade language arts teacher has made the Patriot’s Pen contest a staple for students.

In recognition of her promotion of the essay contest each year, the VFW awarded her a certificate of appreciation and a check for $300.

Tressler said the award was unexpected. “They didn’t have to do that,” she said.

She said she plans to use the money for classroom materials.


by Zeke Wilcox

“Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” – John F. Kennedy. Patriotism is the concept of one being devoted and actively supporting your country. To me, being active in your nation is participating in local and national events with the intention to serve or support.

Patriots serve our country. In Scouts, I have been able to serve my community through service opportunities. One example was volunteering with community partners and fellow scouts to build a bench, sun shelter and protective railing for our community to enjoy. I have also had the opportunity to deliver food and toys to families in need. Serving in this way has brought me closer to my community and broken down barriers to those I did not know.

In school, we say the Pledge of Allegiance in unison to start off each day. “Indivisible” is emphasized in this affirmation. This symbolizes to me that we are a group of people who work together to make decisions for the best of our nation. This reminds me that despite my differences with others, I must find ways to find common ground and look beyond my desires. For instance, when my peers are debating current topics, I try to see all points of view. We are one nation that must come together to protect the ideas and freedom that our Forefathers worked so hard for. We can’t let our differences divide us.

I believe it is patriotic to give my best effort toward my school work to be a well educated citizen. This allows me to make intelligent, informed decisions for the better outcome of my country. Working hard in school will also help me achieve my goal of working in Forest Management. In this career, I will be able to protect this precious resource for others to enjoy and for centuries to come. Staying focused on gaining knowledge in school benefits me and the world.

Patriotism to me is serving my country, working towards unity, and striving to do my best in all pursuits. “He loves his country best who strives to make it best.” — Robert G. Ingersoll.

What is Patriotism to Me?

by Athena Smith

“This nation will remain the land of the free, only so long as it’s the home of the brave,” said Elmer Davis. Part of being patriotic is serving and protecting one’s country. The actual definition of patriotism is a person who loves and supports his or her country. For me it’s showing respect to those who made it to where we are free. Small things like voting and jury duty are examples. It is important to show patriotism and there are many ways.

For some people patriotism is decorating their house and having flags up year-round. Another way is bringing flowers to the grave of a person who served. Thanking family or friends for serving and telling their stories is. Sometimes all veterans want is their story to be heard. I have many family members who have served, they are part of the reason I’m patriotic. Their bravery and the hopeful bravery of future generations will keep true patriotism alive.

Part of being patriotic is flying the stars and stripes correctly. There is a flag code that has guidelines on how to display and handle the flag correctly. I’ve recently read that it is disrespectful, or was disrespectful to wear the flag as/on clothing. It seems to be contradicting since some people show their patriotic side by wearing it.

Patriotism brings people together. It is a sense of solidarity and love for your country, a shared feeling and common goal. Sadly it seems to only be when something tragic happens that we all come together. For example, when 9/11 happened we all came together. No matter the race, age, religion or sex, we all came together to support each other.

I believe that Elmer Davis spoke the truth when he said, “This nation will remain free, only as long as it’s the home of the brave.” Patriotism is showing respect, love, and support for your country. If not for the brave ones before, true patriotism would not still be alive. Hopefully future generations will keep it that way, because in the end we are all Americans.

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