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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Whatever the Cost
By Frances G. Dunn

Uncle Albert dived under the table during Sunday dinner when a sudden loud noise blasted through our kitchen window. They called it “shell shock” back then, when loud noises brought back the experienced horrors of war. He had been drafted into the Army during World War II, then returned home and stayed with his family for a time. Although today the calamitous post-war experiences have been renamed “post-traumatic stress disorder,” the sudden noises continued to plague our uncle.

Uncle Joe enlisted in the Navy during a time when our country was at peace. A proud Navy man, he traveled, served his tour of duty, came home, and utilized his new knowledge, skills, and abilities to land a job in his hometown’s locomotive company.

My deceased husband, Jim, enlisted in the U.S. Air Force; he served overseas and stateside also during a relatively peaceful time for our country. I can still hear the Air Force reservist’s trumpet playing taps from high on the hill when, after a life fully lived, he died.

Today, I applaud the many men and women who join our country’s military forces, and bring expertise, talent, and commitment—at sometimes great personal sacrifice. They serve.

Unfathomable Courage
By Beth Lynn Clegg

We all repeat the pledge of allegiance and, hand over heart, sing “The Star Spangled Banner.” So what’s in the DNA of those who choose to spend their lives defending the freedom of citizens who don’t always appreciate their efforts? How can we ever repay them for their selfless dedication—sometimes making the ultimate sacrifice—to America?

World War II had raged several months before a family friend hugged his wife and two small children and boarded a train. I was 11 and didn’t understand why he had returned to active duty.

Later, I watched senior high school boys—with and without diplomas—join various branches of the service. In 1946, a memorial bronze plaque listed too many of their names. I didn’t understand.

A college friend was shot down a day after the Korean War ended. That was unthinkable. Then we had Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. They kept enlisting. It was beyond my understanding.

While I’ll never understand, I salute my heroes, both known and unknown men and women, spanning seven generations, for their commitment and unflinching resolve to serve our country with honor in the face of adversity, and unfathomable courage in the heat of battle.

No Greater Love
By Susan Cronk

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) An American soldier embodies the true spirit of this scripture. When I see a soldier in uniform I am reminded of the noteworthy men and women in the Bible, who forged deep bonds of friendship and respect: David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi, Paul and Onesimus. They were willing to do what was necessary to protect and provide for the other, even if it meant sacrificing their life in the attempt.

American soldiers form such bonds too not only with each other but with the American people at large. It is because of those bonds that they are compelled to act in times of distress, to sacrifice personal comfort, and to put their lives in harm’s way, to preserve the ideals upon which America was founded.

The quality of life in America, and in other countries around the world, would be despairingly different were it not for the American soldier serving today and for the generations of soldiers that served before them. At the very least, Americans owe their soldiers the same loyalty and friendship they so graciously bestow.

Paying it Forward
By Harry I. Bishop

When men and women enter the military, they know that they are writing a blank check—payable to the American people for death or injuries endured. For those listed on all war memorials, each check was marked “paid in full.” And for those wearing the uniform today, they never know when they will be sent into harm’s way.

We must always celebrate and salute them, and offer them our love, and our thanks, and our promise that we will never forget their valor or their sacrifice.

How we pay tribute: In Sumter, South Carolina, our veterans groups keep all county-area active duty members and their families and the community involved by conducting Veterans Day and Memorial Day ceremonies; placing over 4,400 flags on veterans graves each year; conducting Toys for Tots and homeless shelter fund drives for military families; helping veterans with disability claims; maintaining a military display building within the city; and through numerous other means. Many local families have never been able to visit the Washington, D.C., memorials—even though they have had friends and relatives killed, wounded, and held as prisoners of war. So, this Memorial Day we are bringing the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall to them.

Oath to Defend
By Thomas G. Calabrese

The noble courageous men and women of the Armed Forces take an oath to defend the United States, the Constitution, and the citizens of our great country. With this oath comes the pledge and heartfelt promise to make the ultimate sacrifice if and when the situation demands it. Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard. The men of these services are the finest that this nation has to offer. They walk a path of honor, duty, and integrity that few choose to tread. When the call to arms is sounded, our military doesn’t hesitate to respond.

The history of our military’s courageous exploits is directly related to the history of our country: Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, Argonne Forest, the Battle of the Bulge, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

The United States of America isn’t just built on steel, wood, and concrete. It is built on the sacrifices of our military. Our flag is a constant tribute to our troops. Old Glory does not fly without our military. When I lay down my head at night to rest, I express my undying gratitude to American troops all around the world who allow me to be free.

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