Announcing the Winner of the 2018 Mary Ryan Memorial Essay Contest

This year’s winner of the Mary Ryan Memorial Essay Contest is Makenna Linsky, a 6th grader at E.T. Richardson Middle School. Makenna wrote about her great grandfather’s service as a switchboard operator during WWII.

First Place

Thank you, Makenna and congratulations! You can read her essay below:

I remember my great-grandad as a loving and compassionate person. When I knew him when I was young, I didn’t really know he went to war- I saw him as any kid would, an embarrassing (in a good way) candy-giving grandparent who loved me very much. I still view him like that today, even though he passed away when I was 8. I found out through some interviews my uncle recorded that he’d gone through some very hard times- but he still loved, hoped, and never gave in to desperation or anger. James A. Clark had definitely earned the freedom and a new life he got after World War II. 

Once grandad was drafted out of college, he moved to a camp where he would live in a tarpaper shack and complete rigorous training. There he specialized in learning how to operate a switchboard, which means grandad had learned how to relay messages throughout the war. Once the training was complete, the soldiers had to begin attacking in real battles. It wasn’t just the fighting that was tough, the men also had to fight sickness, starvation, and freezing. All they had was the suit on their backs, which they couldn’t change out of for weeks. My grandad had compassion through it all, even having sympathy on a prisoner who was forced to clean a horse stall- with his bare hands. Finally, after the war, grandad came home, his goodwill unfazed. 

Grandad helped keep our country free, so he went on to have freedoms of his own. He was free to finish college, get married, and have three children. He was free to work for his father’s printing shop, attend church, and live to meet his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Thanks to people like him, we can have freedoms like those, too. 

Second Place

We would also like to congratulate our second and third place winners. In second place is Madison Luther, a 6th grader at Beverly Hills Middle School. Check out her essay below:

Freedom. It’s a very powerful word, but not everyone has freedom. What even is freedom? I searched it up, and this is the definition of freedom: “The power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.” Some brave people give up their freedom to keep the world safe. These people are called veterans. On November 11, 2018, it will be 100 years since World War I. Thank you to all the men and women who served in World War I, you all were true heroes. The war started on July 28, 1914. It was mainly triggered by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, but that is just one of the many reasons that World War I started. Today we honor you. Because of you, every night I get to go home to my family. My Great Grandad, William Rachor served in WWII. He taught his kids to honor the flag, and to respect all Veterans because he was a veteran. Where my Grandmom’s family lived, Army planes used to fly over and whenever they did, Grandad would silently stop and stare. He was probably thinking back to WWII, hearing planes fly over as he was hiding in a fox hole. It must have been hard to think back to that. The time you almost died. He had a family, a baby on the way, if he had died, my family wouldn’t be here. All of the veterans in the crowd have risked their lives so other families could have one. Thank you to the people in the crowd who have friends or family who are serving. Thank you all.

Third Place

Our third-place winner for 2018 is Elizabeth Johnstone, an 8th grader at Radnor Middle School. You can read her essay here:

Realizing and appreciating how soldiers from the past loved and served their country can allow us to understand the sacrifices made by those who fought and are still fighting in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. World War I was a time when brave soldiers fought to preserve the integrity of Europe and the rest of the world.

Some of the most courageous soldiers in this war were the Native American “code talkers”, who used their language, Choctaw, as a code to pass along important strategic information between American troops and their allies. This allowed locations of supplies and soldiers to be kept secret from the Germans who did not understand the Choctaw language. Without the code talkers, communication between the Allies would have been almost impossible.

The most amazing thing about the code talkers was their patriotism and generosity. During World War I, U.S citizenship and the right to vote were denied to Native Americans. Regardless of how they were treated by the government, they were still willing to risk their lives to fight for their country. They could have been bitter and not have used their skills to support the Allied troops; instead, they acted selflessly and fought to defend their land in the tradition of their culture.

Over 1,000 Choctaw soldiers volunteered in World War I and were sent to the Western Front. The Choctaw had an enormous impact beyond that war, inspiring other Native American soldiers to use their language in similar ways during World War II. We should be grateful for all those who have served in the military because they put their country before themselves. From the soldiers of the past (like the Choctaw), we can learn the importance of utilizing identity and individuality to sacrifice for the good of the country.

Congratulations to all 3 of our winners, and thank you to every student who submitted to our contest!