The Fort Leonard Wood Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation program conducted a community essay contest for Veterans Day this year. Below are the selected winning submissions — one from a 7th grader, and the other from a special education teacher.
Grandpa Fred —an unsung hero
By Arshia Malhotra
Special to GUIDON
My grandfather Ray Fredericksen — Fred — was a 91-year old U.S. Air Force veteran who passed away last month. Like many, he was an unsung veteran hero.
Veterans help protect our nation by sacrificing their personal family lives. My grandpa was a man of great intelligence, kindness and love.
He was the person who could listen to you for hours, unless it was about the Minnesota Vikings losing to the Green Bay Packers.
Veterans and people who serve our country — they are the backbone and inspiration for everyone. They are the ones who help respond in any way to help our country.
My grandpa served in the Air Force for 12 years. He decoded messages during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
When he moved to Rolla, Missouri, he and my grandmother moved into a house right across from my parents. Grandpa Fred has been a huge part of my life. He was there when my mom graduated; when I walked my first steps; and when we watched the Kansas City Chiefs win the Super Bowl last year.
He helped me understand the Cuban Missile Crisis and many other stories, including an instance when Grandpa Fred refused to eat in a restaurant where his fellow colleague was denied food service due to his skin color.
Why was Grandpa Fred an unsung hero?
No one was there to salute him when he passed away, except for my family. Let’s not forget our unsung heroes, like my Grandpa Fred.
Veterans are the backbone of our nation. They are inspirational role models and brave warriors.
(Editor’s note: Malhotra is a 7th grade student at Rolla Junior High School in Rolla, Missouri.)
Understanding their struggle
By Jill Blue
Special to GUIDON
I have always respected veterans of the armed forces.
I truly believe they are responsible for the freedoms American citizens live with each day.
It was recently, with the introduction of a service member into my personal life, that I learned the true sacrifices these heroes endure to protect our freedoms that are often taken for granted.
As a teacher of students with special needs, I see the struggles that children with physical and mental disabilities face each day.
Most of these children are born with these disabilities, and they struggle to learn basic life skills and physical skills.
They struggle in school and throughout their adult life to be accepted and work harder than any other student to learn basic concepts.
Our veterans understand that they may live a life faced with these very challenges from the day they sign up to serve.
They are willing to risk physical and mental disabilities to protect our freedoms. Our society is quick to accept physical disabilities of veterans and thank them for their service.
However, the hidden mental impact that each hero faces is often misunderstood.
That grumpy old man with a Veterans of Foreign Wars hat at the ice cream store needs a simple smile.
The veteran who is so kind to each person he passes, opening doors and greeting everyone with kind words; he can’t sleep at night because of nightmares.
That veteran neighbor who has panic attacks in groups of people and can hardly even go grocery shopping without leaving the store empty-handed, constantly looking over her shoulder; she needs someone to go shopping for her or bring her a meal.
That veteran who can’t leave his home without concealed weapons to make sure he stays safe; he’s struggling with the horrific memories of war.
As American citizens, it is our duty to be more accepting and understanding of our veterans, not just on Veterans Day, but every day.
It’s our responsibility to seek out our veterans in need and provide them with support — to say thank you for their service.
These brave men and women are sacrificing, not only their lives, but their physical and mental well-being so that each of us can take for granted the American life.
We owe them our gratitude.
(Editor’s note: Blue is an early childhood special education teacher at Wyman Elementary School in Rolla, Missouri.)