Kathleen McIlree, of Middlesex Middle School, and Katy Murphy, of Darien High School, were named the winners in the 2014 Memorial Day Essay Contest sponsored by the Darien Monuments and Ceremonies Commission.
"We were delighted to receive so many fine poems and essays this year from more than 90 students. Kathleen and Katy's essays best exemplify the true meaning of Memorial Day," Phil Kraft, commission chairman, said.
McIlree and Murphy have been invited to read their essays at the Memorial Day dedication ceremony at the Connecticut Veteran's Cemetery at Spring Grove immediately following the Memorial Day parade.
The winning essays, along with those of the other finalists, will be on display in the Darien Town Hall lobby for the next few weeks.
A Day to Remember
Today is a day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Let us all express our gratitude and pride.
For those who have gone to war, fought for us and died.
Remember they died to save your right to vote, to learn, to pray, to speak your mind.
Let us see their strength, determination and courage.
Let us look at the flags upon their graves, which represent their strength.
To know that they did not die in vain.
To acknowledge the burden put on the families' shoulders.
Let us never forget to pass this onto the next generations.
To remember what these solders died for.
We should all pay them our respect.
They fought for their country both yours and mine.
To imagine what they must have gone through.
This is a day we should remember what they have done.
To pay tribute to them and give our gratitude to their families, and cherished now
and all the days to come.
So this day can be remembered though our history.
If you have ever had the chance to walk around Spring Grove cemetery across from the Library you've noticed the myriad of gravestones dedicated to veterans, and perhaps the monument representing soldiers from past wars with American involvement as well. As Americans we are told that men and women in the military should be respected and thanked for their service; however, it has not always been this way. During unpopular wars such as Vietnam veterans returning home were treated horribly, and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice sometimes didn't receive the send-off that they deserved. It is important to observe Memorial Day because, although we have the chance to thank living-veterans, all we can do for those who died in combat to protect our freedoms is keep their memory.
How can we memorialize these fallen soldiers? Too many die young, and without children and spouses to perpetuate their memory these heroes' names are at risk to become forgotten. Something you can do to give thanks is look up casualty lists from any U.S. war: all of these documents are now available online. Just by doing a quick Google search you can find the names of hundreds of thousands of soldiers who gave their lives for the American cause, and just take a moment to read a few of them. Remember that Memorial Day isn't about the battles won and lost, but about the men and women who lost their lives. They deserve some name recognition -- If you can remember the names of all of the Kardashians and Beyonce and Jay-Z's daughter, remembering one more, who fell in service to our country nonetheless, shouldn't be a problem.
That's what Memorial Day is about. Remembering and memorializing. It's not just a day off from school. My grandfather, a Vietnam veteran, has impressed this importance upon me better than anyone else. We are lucky enough today to live in a society free of the draft. Our classmates will not be shipped off overseas come their 18th birthday. Our fathers, mothers, siblings, spouses, and children are safe from military service unless they choose to volunteer. It is easy to forget that for men like my grandfather service sometimes meant leaving a young wife and infant daughter at home, unsure and unaware of what might befall you. My Pop Nick was lucky enough to come out alive and intact, but some of his friends were not. What is worse is that because of the unpopularity of the war many of those who died weren't honored, as they should have been for serving their country. Memorial Day gives us a moment to honor them.
So, as you don your Red, White, and Blue and head out to the parades this Monday remember what you are doing it for. True, it is a day to sleep in late and procrastinate on homework and other duties, but it's also a time to remember and honor those who have fallen in their service to protect our freedoms. Whether you take a stroll through a veteran's cemetery, hang a wreath by a memorial, or just take a little time out of your day to look up a few names; Memorial Day is about memorializing. Remember the men and women. Remember the fallen.