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May 27, 2014 
Kylie Hagen, a fifth grader at Oak Woods School, was pronounced the winner of a Memorial Day essay contest during a community celebration on May 26, 2014.
The contest was initiated by J.C. Campbell, a veteran and community leader who felt it was important for students to commemorate armed services personnel who have died in service to the nation.
The program objective stated, “Many students think Memorial Day is simply a day to ‘celebrate’ a day off from school. They don’t realize it is instead a day to ‘commemorate’ or remember those who have lost their lives in all American Wars. The objective of this contest is to help students understand the true meaning of this day.”
The text of Hagen’s essay was:

Memorial Day is a time for parades, fishing, barbequing and more. But that’s not the reason we celebrate Memorial Day. We celebrate it because we want to honor our fallen heroes and heroines. This day is a day of honor and sacrifice, not some holiday off of school!

Kylie Hagen In the 1860’s, our country was endangered to almost destroying itself over a Civil War. About 600,000 soldiers died in that war. And many were injured badly. Lots of families grieved for their fallen relatives or friends. The loss was many. So, in 1866, Congress made the last Monday of May a day to decorate the graves of fallen heroes and heroines. Decoration Day! Then, late in the year of 1882, Congress made that day an official holiday called Memorial Day. To not only decorate, but to remember.

People celebrate Memorial Day in different ways. Some people recite the names of those who had fallen in battles way back in history. Others go fishing, have big grills and invite their friends, and some go to parades and such. I mostly have grills and go to the parade that comes to town each year. But now that I truly know what this holiday means, I will do all these things, but I will have the highest honor and respect for what this holiday really means.

When I think about what these people did for us, I think how hard it would be to give your life! You only have one. Their sacrifice gave us freedom! I am very grateful that we’re able to vote from our own choices. Also I am grateful that we can say what we want to say (as long as it’s not hurting anyone! We can write what we want to write. We can believe in who we want to believe in! We have freedom because of their brave and noble sacrifice.

The fallen heroes and heroines had families, friends, and other loved ones. I guess you could say that freedom and a lot of the things we have now was a dream, a love. They died for independence, freedom, rights, beliefs, and protecting their country. They gave their life for more than a dream or freedom. They deserve the highest respect for they gave up their only life for freedom and other well-known reasons.

Memorial Day has a lot of history packed in behind it. Some people don’t know about all that comes with Memorial Day. It is a very special day that is all about remembering. This will always have a special spot in my heart.

Hagen was one of five campus winners vying for the top prize. Others were: Grayson McKelvain, Acton Elementary School; Raines Riddle, Baccus Elementary School; Tanner Crabbe, Brawner Intermediate School; Megan Bednarz, Mambrino School. The top essays were judged by newspaper representatives.
The contest followed state curriculum guidelines regarding fifth grade citizenship, which specifies that students understand “important symbols, customs, celebrations, and landmarks that represent American beliefs and principles and contribute to our national identity” and “describe the origins and significance of national celebrations such as Memorial Day.”

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