Tribute to Our Troops Essay Contest Winners

The top 20 essays have been selected. Thank you to all who participated in The Saturday Evening Post’s Tribute to Our Troops essay contest!

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Call to Greatness
By Major David Thompson

It is a struggle, as an Army officer, to find words that make sense of the Profession of Arms experience. No greater tribute to the troops exists than reflecting—in terms of experience, greatness, and selfless service—on the privilege to lead America’s sons and daughters in military formations.

It is not the destination, but rather the experience. Through the course of a short stint or full 30-year career, the fabric inextricably woven into each military unit by its members is the heart and soul of that experience. Contributions create unique legacies maintaining that unit’s eternal heartbeat.

Further, it is more than the experience, but rather the human phenomena linked to greatness. Each member of our all-volunteer force brings immeasurable contributions. After a decade of prolonged combat operations, our troops continue to provide astounding results. And we continuously ask more greatness from them.

Finally, it is more than greatness, but rather a complete internalization of selfless service. Selfless service is greater than just one troop—it is a culmination of the collective fulfillment of duties without consideration of personal gain. As a member of this great team, I can do nothing but honor the troops to my left and right.

Memorial Day Memories
By William Taylor

Stuart was the son of my uncle’s friend who lived in Coytesville, New Jersey—a little town at the end of the bus line and north of Fort Lee, New Jersey.

In 1941, I was 3 years old. World War II hadn’t started.

Stuart entertained me with 16 mm movies of Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse while the older folks talked. He was like a big brother to me.

When the war broke out in December 1941, Stuart was one of the first to volunteer for the Navy. Not too long after, he was assigned to a destroyer in the Pacific. His ship received a direct hit from a torpedo that took his life as well as many of his shipmates. When I heard of his death, I was deeply hurt, and I never forgot him.

Sometime before 1943, my mother and I visited a friend of hers who lived in Union City, New Jersey—“German Rosie.” Many immigrants in the area at the time were of German extraction but did not support their country of origin. German Rosie displayed a Gold Star in her front window signifying she had lost her son in the war.

The Soldier’s Creed
By Anna Patterson

“I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.” — U.S. Soldier’s Creed

Every day our troops show us by example why they deserve a tribute of honor. This beautiful country reminds us that somewhere, sometimes very far away, our troops support us and the American life and freedom we cherish.

Our United States troops are actually deployed in more than 150 countries. United States uniformed men and woman serve in Afghanistan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Diego Garcia, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Djibouti. These represent military stationed in Africa and the Middle East. They serve in Asia and the Pacific: Japan, South Korea, Australia, Singapore, Philippines, and Thailand. In Europe they are in Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, Spain, Turkey, Belgium, Portugal, Netherlands, Greece and Norway. They are deployed in the Western Hemisphere as well: Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; Honduras; Canada; and Greenland. Also, the United States: Hawaii, Alaska, Guam, and Puerto Rico. In October of 2012, there were 2,012 United States military casualties reported in the War in Afghanistan.

Americans everywhere join in this tribute to these warrior guardians of our freedom!

When Soldiers Come Home
By Devi Acharya

I am 17 years old, and just two weeks ago I spoke at the opening of my first museum exhibit, “Between Two Worlds: Veterans Journey Home.” With the help of the Missouri History Museum, four other teens and I created an exhibit about veterans’ homecoming stories.

Born into the war-weary 21st century, I was skeptical of the topic at first. But as I began to interview these veterans and hear their stories, I realized the true impact that war has on these veterans—and what it ought to have on society.

Afghanistan veteran Shawn Tamborski describes seeing children overseas starving and struggling to survive or killed in suicide bombings. She knows that she now places more importance—and higher standards—on her own children.

Veteran Josh Eckhoff was injured by an improvised explosive device (IED) in Iraq. He states that as soon as he returned home “Everybody and their brother wanted to give me something. And then, after I’ve been home for three or four months, I was kind of left scratching my head, saying, ‘Where’d everybody go?’”

Short-term or long-term, seen or unseen, these are often life-altering changes. We as a society ought to support their return and readjustment when they come home.

Seize the Moment
By Don Carnagey-Lanier

Years ago a major in the Marines and a friend of mine’s wife died. About a week after her death, he shared some of his insight one day during a morning briefing before we left for Panama:

“Before this briefing is over, I would like to share with all of you a thought that is unrelated to our deployment, but which I feel is very important. Each of us is put here on this earth to learn, share, love, appreciate and give of ourselves. That is one reason that I became a Marine. None of us knows when this fantastic experience will end, especially in our line of work. It can be taken away at any moment.

“Notice beauty each day and cherish it. It may sound trite to some, especially when we as soldiers are supposed to be unfeeling and hard core; these things are the ‘stuff’ of life. The little things we are put here on earth to enjoy and (for us) to protect. The things we often take for granted. We must make it important to notice them, for at any time it can all be taken away.”

The beauty of life as we each see it honors our soldiers.

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