Announcing the Winner of the 2017 Mary Ryan Memorial Essay Contest

We are excited to announce this year’s winner of the Mary Ryan Memorial Essay Contest. This year’s winner is Brendan Hung, an 8th grader at Radnor Middle School.

Brendan’s essay illuminates the struggles veterans face when transitioning back to civilian life after deployment and explores what students like him can do to help.

First Place

Thank you, Brendan, for your hard work on this essay and congratulations! You can read the text of Brendan’s essay below:

Returning home from war is a challenge for which no soldier ever trains. America’s newest veterans face their toughest battles when they attempt to transition back to the simple, daily routines of civilian life. As many struggle to find a job, manage their finances, or secure a place to live, unemployment, poverty, and homelessness threaten their lives. Yet, the problems of new veterans do not end there, as nearly one in five vets suffer from traumatic brain injuries, PTSD or depression. As Luis Duran, a 30-year-old Marine Corp vet who served in Iraq, has expressed, “The hardest thing you can ever do isn’t joining the military. [It’s] getting out.” 

Supporting our veterans in their time of need depends on the meaningful efforts of all young citizens. As today’s youth, we should stand committed to giving back to these vets who selflessly pledged their lives to safeguard our nation. From holding school fundraisers to shopping at veteran-owned businesses, we can support recent veterans who are trying to make ends meet. And through social media, we can raise local and national awareness of the issues facing veterans and the beneficial ways to help them.

Moreover, small efforts like spending time with a vet can make a positive, lasting impact. We can visit a VA hospital or a nearby veterans’ home to get to know a vet, to learn their story and understand their feelings. Devoting our time to help brighten the lives of these brave individuals is more than just a kind act—it is our duty as responsible citizens. Recent veterans like Luis Duran faithfully sacrificed to serve our country, so that we could live each day in safety and freedom. It is now our turn to provide these heroic men and women with the necessary support that they deserve. 

Second Place

We would also like to congratulate our second and third place winners. In second place is Juliana Huynh, a 7th grader at Drexel Hill Middle School. Here is the essay she wrote:

Veterans are those who volunteer their welfare for the better of the country. The veterans of our nation have pledged their lives to ours to defend and continuously keep our freedom. For some, enduring challenges of war can be rewarding, honorable, and self-purposeful. On the other hand it can be traumatizing, transforming, and overwhelming. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, a total of 297,875 service members had PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, from October 2001 to March 2013. So let’s all give back to the veterans that have made this country proud by helping veterans need. 

When coming back to civilian life after years in the military can be hard, Everything you know may have changed, people may have moved on with their life. Most importantly you’ve changed yourself. Some who have served are homeless. This is one of the huge problems because homelessness could lead to substance abuse and violence. Additionally, undereducated veterans struggle to get a profession because not many programs provide benefits for ex-military personnel. Lastly, some may experience emotional problems or health conditions like PTSD. 

For all these problems there are ways to help, such as donating to community programs to help all veterans, homeless, jobless, or with emotional problems. Another way to lessen the percent of homelessness is to give them a job to sustain a normal life. There are also several therapy methods, medicinal advances, and prosthetics to help those who have suffered mentally or physically. 

One way to especially help a veteran in need is to say thank you. It can light up there day and guide them through the night knowing someone appreciates them. Now, I’ll honor them veterans in need. Thank you for all you have done and all the sacrifices you have made out of your bravery and dedication. 

Third Place

In third place is Theodora Greco, an 8th grader at Springton Lake Middle School.

The enemies we are facing today are strong. I’m grateful to know that there are still people willing to die to protect me and my country. To all the veterans out there I want to say thank you for all that they have done. I could never be as brave and loyal as they are. On behalf of my community, I say thank you. 

In recent years we have been involved in many wars. This means we are having more and more people go and fight in these wars. Many of our returning veterans are having difficulty returning to normal life. This is somewhat expected because life in the military is very different from normal life. But many of our veterans are trying to commit suicide or hurt themselves. Our veterans are showing some major effects from being in recent wars. One of the side effects veterans are getting is PTSD. 

PTSD stands for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD is caused by having experienced traumatic events. The effects of this disease are flashbacks, nightmares, or intrusive memories. Through these past years, more people are developing PTSD. 7.7 million Americans age 18 and over have PTSD. This number is way too high. 

A way that we can help veterans suffering with PTSD, is we can let them know that we really do appreciate them. Also some veterans had dogs with them in war. We can reunite the veterans with their dogs. This could help them transition into normal life again. 

Life as a veteran is hard. They go through so much to serve our country. We should all try to help them out to show that we appreciate them. 

Congratulations to our three winners, and thank you to every student who participated.