Each year, the American Legion hosts an essay contest for fifth grade students that begins with a simple question: What does the flag mean to you? Upon reflection, the students composed a brief essay in response to the question and submitted it to the local Post for judging in December.

In La Porte City, American Legion Post #207 provided a number of resources for the students at La Porte City Elementary School. Among them were a video and a comic book that explained the history, significance and proper treatment of the flag. Students were also treated to a formal flag-folding ceremony, conducted by local Legion members, to better understand the symbolism and reverence that is afforded the flag during this solemn activity.

The format for the essay was limited to the following and was to reflect the student’s perspective of what the United States Flag represents to them using facts from the United States Flag Code:
A one page document containing 300 words or less.
Double-spaced with 12-point font.
The student’s own words and effort.

At an assembly held last month, members of the Legion met with the fifth graders to announce the top three placewinners in the local essay contest. Addressing the students, Post Commander Rick Calhoon explained that the essay judging is done without revealing the identity of the authors. In the end, the judges selected Kajsa Skram’s essay as the first place entry, which will advance to compete at the regional contest. Placing second and third were Abbie Estling and Evan McMahon.

1st Place, Kaysa Skram – When I think about the flag and what the flag means to me, I think about my great grandpa, all the wars our country fought, all the citizens of this country, freedom, the National Anthem, and God.
I think about my great grandpa, because he helped in World War II. He loaded bombs into B-29 bombers. He left his home, his friends and family, and risked his life for our country. I am really proud of my great grandpa.
I also think about all the other wars. Like the Civil War, the Revolutionary War, World War I and II, etc. All of those people who fought risked their lives for our country. When I learn about all the wars, the flag has something to do with the war in a very important way.
I think about the citizens because the stars remind me of all the states and all the people in the states who helped and might change the world someday to make the world better.
I am also grateful for the freedom our country has, and how everyone is free! Everyone can have their own beliefs, and stand up for what they think is right. Now we have democracy, not a monarchy.
I think about God, because in the Pledge Of Allegiance, it says, “One nation, under God” and because He gave us this world and this freedom. God gave us everything we had in the wars and battles. He gave us everything we have today to make us a united country.
Lastly, I think about the National Anthem, because that was written for the flag. Every time I hear the National Anthem, I think of the flag and it is an important part of history and people’s lives today.
That is what the flag means to me.

2nd Place, Abbie Estling – I am going to tell you what the amazing flag of the United States means to me. The United States flag means so much to me. It means bravery. So many people put their lives in danger to fight for our country.
It means freedom. I am so thankful that I live in this country. We don’t have to do what someone else says. We have a lot more opportunities than most people back then when most places had kings and queens and less rights.
It means honor. The United States flag is something I honor all day, every day. I also honor and thank all the veterans who have served. When I do the Pledge of Allegiance I am honoring the U.S. flag because I put my hand on my heart. You also have to take your hat off to honor the United States. If you do not, then you are disrespecting the United States and all the veterans who have fought for our country.
It means justice. Ever since we have won many wars and battles, we are free of the many choices we can do today, such as decide where we live, where we go, and what we do. We don’t have a king or queen to rule over our country. Instead, we have a leader who makes good decisions for our country.
It means courage. I know it means courage because everyone in the army put their lives out there just for our country. I’m pretty sure that they had to have courage in them to do that.
I am very thankful for the flag. What I mean when I say I am thankful for the U.S. flag is, I am thankful for everyone who has fought in the army. Thank you, veterans.

3rd Place, Evan McMahon -To me the flag is very important to me because its more than just a flag it is our country’s representation and national sign. Soldiers will risk their lives to help our country have freedom and when my great grandpa passed away they put the flag over him and some veterans shot guns and sang the pledge of allegiance. So when I look at a flag it reminds me of him and every other soldier who fought for our country. From my heart the flag to me means freedom because a lot of countries don’t have our freedom and we are lucky to have it because without it we wouldn’t have as many opportunities as we have to day also we may not be the country we are today because the flag gives some people hope and courage. It also means bravery because the soldiers who go and fight for our country are very brave because some don’t come back it also means to me loyalty because soldiers stand by the flag no matter what happens. Another thing the flag means to me is happiness because looking at the flag makes me very happy. When I grow up I want to be in the military so I can serve and protect our great country and be a veteran. I also think of the National Anthem because its our country’s national song. I think that the flag should never be burned without saluting and never touch the ground. That is what the flag means from my heart to me.