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May 18, 2021 

Memorial Day Essay Contest

Mailey Oliver, a fifth grader at Oak Woods School, was announced the winner of a Memorial Day essay contest at the Granbury ISD school board meeting on May 17, 2021. 

Oliver was one of four Granbury ISD campus winners vying for the top prize.  Others were:  Kynadee Cogburn, Acton Elementary School; Jocelyn Current, Brawner Elementary School; and Lena Tibljas, STEAM Academy at Mambrino. 

The contest was initiated several years ago 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.  Campbell recently passed away, and the essay contest is now named in his honor, according to organizer Julia Pannell. 

The program objective for the fifth grade competition states, “Many students think Memorial Day is simply a day to ‘celebrate’ a day off from school.  They do not 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 Oliver’s essay entitled “What Memorial Day Means to Me” was: 

Memorial Day is more than just a holiday. The last Monday of May is set apart to honor those who sacrificed their life so we could live ours. To me, Memorial Day reminds me to live a life serving others, as I remember those who died serving our country. 

My Grandad chose to live his life like everyday was Memorial Day. He did not lose his life while in war, so Memorial Day is not really about him, but my Grandad, JC Campbell, lived the rest of his life to the fullest because he wanted to honor his friends who had died. Memorial Day to me means to live my life like my Grandad did and serve other people. Memorial Day meant everything to my Grandad. My grandad learned that life is a gift and should be spent serving others, so he lived everyday like it was Memorial Day. Memorial Day was important to my Grandad because his navy ship later sank and many sailors lost their lives. He spent the rest of his life making sure those sailors were not forgotten. Grandad honored his friends by planning a ship reunion every year where all the families from his navy ship would meet at a different city in the U.S. to tell stories and remember those who died. Grandad organized this reunion to show respect for those who died to protect our freedoms. 

Grandad was always trying to teach honor and respect. One way he did this was start coin collections for his grandkids. His love for coins is an example of how much he loved his country. At family meals, he always circled us up and would pray and end with, “thank you, God, for our service men and women.” Even in his prayers, he remembered those who have sacrificed. At his own funeral, he was still being an example of love and service. In March, my Grandad passed away and many people gathered for his funeral. After the funeral, I told my Dad it seems like we find out how much a person means to us after they are gone. As I write this essay, I realize it must be the  same feeling Grandad felt as he left funerals of service men and women he knew. 

The Navy presented our family with a special American Flag showing how much he was honored. When we left the church to go to the grave, cars were pulled over and people were standing outside their cars. Everyone in Granbury on 377 at 4 PM that Monday afternoon got out of their car to honor my Grandad. I know this kind of respect was shown because he was someone who lived everyday like it was Memorial Day. Since he was also a firefighter, all firefighters in our town came. At the grave, they who pretended he was getting his last firefighter call. The voice on the radio tried to call JC to his next call, but when there was no answer they said your service is done. While to anyone else it may seem like being a firefighter has nothing to do with Memorial Day, to me, it is another example of Grandad teaching me to live a life of service. I will live my life for God so at my funeral, people will know I only cared about spreading God’s love and using my life to serve others. 

I recently watched the movie “Saving Private Ryan” with my Dad. In one part, the character looks at the graves and remembers he got to live while all his friends didn't. For me, a movie didn’t teach me about serving others since my freedom is from others’ sacrifice. Grandad taught me that. Since he lived his life like everyday was Memorial Day, so will I. That is why Memorial Day means everything to me, because really, it meant everything to him. 

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.” 

Pictured are (left to right) Chief Mitch Galvan, Lena Tibljas, Jocelyn Current, Kynadee Cogburn, Mailey Oliver, Julia Pannell, and GISD assistant curriculum director Trisha Suitt.