ELKTON, Md. — The eighth-grade class at Immaculate Conception School in Elkton isn’t very big, but it includes a number of young patriots who were able to eloquently answer the question, “Why do I honor the American flag?”
Simone Matucci, Ethan Lane and Karli Hamm took the top three spots, respectively, in the Patriot’s Pen essay competition, sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The national competition includes four levels of competition, including post and district, which is where the ICS trio made its mark.
Simone placed first in the VFW post portion of the contest, followed by Ethan and Karli. Simone advanced to the district level, where she took third. It was the first time Immaculate Conception had an entrant who advanced past the post level in the several years the school has participated, according to eighth-grade teacher Michelle Overlander.
In her essay, Simone said she stands each morning to say the Pledge of Allegiance to honor all of the lives that have been lost at war. In particular, she mentions her grandfather, who served in Vietnam from 1969-71 and “was one of the lucky ones who made it back home to his family.”
She said her grandfather thought it was “pretty cool” that she included him in the essay. She asked him a bunch of questions about his experiences overseas before writing the essay.
The idea behind her entry was “how he fought for everyone’s freedom and how people still do that today, and how you have to honor that.”
Ethan wrote about the history of the flag and why it was made.
“I talked about in my last paragraph how it’s disrespected these days for all the wrong reasons and how people should respect it more,” he said.
The third-place finisher, Karli, said her father was a police officer, “so I was brought up to respect” the flag.
The essays were 300 to 400 words long. For their post-level recognition, Overlander and the students traveled to Havre de Grace. The award ceremony for the district was in Street, a town near Bel Air. They had not heard of Street before this.
“We had to look it up. And we’re all Maryland people. We had to Google it,” Overlander said.
All three of the students said writing is not their forte, but they managed to put winning essays together.
“We do journals in (Overlander’s) class. I’ll either like it or don’t want to do it at all,” Simone said.
Simone and Karli said they will attend Bohemia Manor High School next year, while Ethan will be going to St. Mark’s High School.
Why I Honor the American Flag
— Patriot’s Penn Essay Contest excerpt —
By Simone Matucci
Each morning countless teachers, children and professionals stand, face the flag and say the Pledge of Allegiance. They show respect to the flag and the pledge that is being recited in their own way. Honoring the flag can be shown in many different ways and forms. But the reason why we honor it will never change.
When I stand I choose to honor all the lives that have been lost in war. I choose to stand for every person who made the sacrifice for my freedom. My grandfather was in the Vietnam War and served from 1969 until 1971, so it’s very important for me to honor my grandfather as well. He was one of the lucky ones who made it back home to his family. Brave men and women fight for my rights every day and will continue to do so. I am truly blessed to live in a country where we do have such freedom. Millions of lives have been lost to war and acts of terrorism in an effort to protect the United States and the flag that we hang so high. As long as I’m free, I choose to honor those that stood and fought for our freedom.
When I stand and face the flag, I choose to honor those rights that unite the people in our country. I honor the courage and justice we have for our free country, the best country, the United States of America. Even standing for the Pledge of Allegiance or the National Anthem, we are honoring the flag and what it stands for. Our flag is the symbol that unites us as one. It should be flown with honor and pride. People who live in our country should have respect for our flag and what it represents. The United States of America is the country I live in, and I say it proud.