Image of Kinley Wilson

Kinley Wilson of Fort Gibson, Oklahoma.

Every year, the Veterans of Foreign Wars hosts a national essay contest for high school students which “encourages young minds to examine America’s history, along with their own experiences in modern American society.” This year’s Patriot’s Pen essay contest asked students to write about “the America I believe in.”

For eighth grader Kinley Wilson, the sounds of rifle volleys from VA’s Fort Gibson National Cemetery inspired an essay on the service and sacrifice of America’s Veterans. Wilson’s family lives near Fort Gibson. “When I hear the rifle volleys echoing from the National Cemetery, I think of the heroes who served for duty, honor and country,” he wrote.

Wilson received the 5th place overall award in the essay contest after winning the state contest in Oklahoma this past January.

Below is Wilson’s full essay, republished with permission.

Two hundred forty years ago our country declared its independence. Our forefathers built this nation on the principles that all men are created equal and that each citizen should enjoy the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. From the Battle of Lexington to Operation Iraqi Freedom, men and women have been willing to sacrifice their lives to protect and defend these rights. These men and women are true American heroes. The America I believe in honors these heroes and respects the rights and privileges we enjoy.

Image of Fort Gibson National CemeteryNearly every day gunfire rings out near my house. Typically, these sounds would cause people to be afraid, but not in my neighborhood. You see, I live a short distance from a National Cemetery. The three rifle volleys are part of the burial ceremony honoring veterans at the cemetery. The three empty bullets from the volley represent what motivates the true American soldier: duty, honor, and country. When I hear the gunfire or see the rows and rows of white headstones, it is a reminder of the sacrifices so many have made for this country. I am thankful and proud that my America remembers and appreciates its fallen patriots.

The America I believe in not only honors it veterans, but also cherishes the privileges and rights our military defends. As Americans we enjoy many amazing freedoms. We have the freedom to speak our minds, to practice the religion we choose, and to vote for our leaders. These rights should be respected and never taken for granted. To demonstrate our appreciation for these freedoms, citizens of the America I believe in honor the American flag, respectfully stand when the National Anthem is played, and proudly recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

I am thankful for the soldiers who are willing to sacrifice their lives to protect America. These brave men and women deserve the praise and recognition they receive. When I hear the rifle volleys echoing from the National Cemetery, I think of the heroes who served for duty, honor, and country. Many paid the ultimate price to protect the freedoms all Americans enjoy. In turn, respectful citizens show genuine gratitude for those freedoms when they truly honor America. That is the America I believe in.

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Published on Mar. 23, 2017

Estimated reading time is 2.7 min.

Views to date: 127


  1. james smith March 24, 2017 at 3:42 pm

    thank you for the nice essay, maybe you could get a job with the VA and make some changes, as those within dont care about those of us who got injured serving. any way, God bless you young man

  2. Clyde Thorne March 24, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    Thank you for sharing your feelings with all of our veterans. Our youth of today spend a lot of time with their noses buried in their phones texting and skyping with their friends. It would be a good thing for them to take just a small part of their day, once in a while, to view some of our History on the wars that our men and women have fought in; the wars which keep this country and it’s citizens free to do pretty much what we want within the laws of this great country. We see entirely too much of the rioting, burning of private property, and killings of our police officers today.

    What you did, putting your feelings on paper, is something most of our younger generations wouldn’t do. I want to thank you again for sharing your feelings with us. I spent 16 years in the Army and had three (3) tours in Vietnam, a tour in Germany, and one in Italy. During this time I spent a lot of time with the people of these different countries; and I learned to appreciate even more, what our country offers and stands for. CONGRATULATIONS! You understand this already, and without having to go our of this country to understand what you have here in America. We hear almost every day, “Freedom is not Free”!

    God’s blessings on you and your family.

  3. Richard Tompkins March 24, 2017 at 10:19 am

    I would have thought this young man’s essay would have been awarded a spot higher than fifth, however, it is awesome to know we have such young people who will one day be the ones who will fill the boots of those now serving and protecting our great country. The sound of the rifle salute, along with the haunting sound of taps is the sad reminder, we have lost another of this country’s heroes.

    May we never forget those who served before, who sacrifice now, and those such as this young man who will most likely serve in the future.

    Semper Fidelis

  4. Serrenia O White March 23, 2017 at 4:56 pm

    I Thank you for showing your Support

Comments are closed.

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