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When Gracie Vinzant hears the national anthem, it makes her aware that "I have a very good life."
But "sometimes it makes me feel sad for families that have lost a loved one in a war or fight." Gracie, a fifth grader at Clear Creek Elementary School, wrote those thoughts in her third-place winning Elks Lodge essay on the topic, "What Does the National Anthem Mean to Me?" She likes the tune. "I often replay it in my head after hearing it, because it is one of my favorite songs about the United States of America."
Quinn Kelsch, an eighth grader at Immaculata, took a sweeping view of the nation's history as it has unfolded over 201 years since Francis Scott Key wrote "The Star Spangled Banner."
"Since that day, America has consistently held a dogged determination to maintain our hard-earned freedom," he wrote in his first-place essay. "We forged our country, survived the Great Depression, helped our world stay free through WWI and WWII, stayed strong after 9/11, and fought against terrorism to the present day. The Star-Spangled banner reminds me of our country's fight for our beginning and our enduring ideals."
Gracie and Quinn were among six essay writers recognized Sunday as winners of the Hendersonville Elks Lodge's annual contest, sponsored by the club's Americanism Committee, led by Jay and Debbie Farris.
Archie W. Case III, another eighth grader at Immaculata, reported in his essay that his seventh generation paternal grandfather fought during the War of 1812, "and I strive not to take for granted his legacy to me."
Alana Robinson, a fifth grader at Clear Creek Elementary School, said she sings the anthem like she means it every day at school. "I also sing that song so loud so everybody knows how much I love what the national anthem represents," she added.
"These early Americans were just like me," wrote Susanne Thomas, a fifth grader who is homeschooled through the St. Dominic Savio Homeschool Cooperative, "growing up in this new land and willing to sacrifice their lives so we can follow our dreams."
Joe Maddock, a seventh grader at Immaculata, summed it up: "The Star Spangled Banner defines our country. It is not just something we sing, it's something we believe."
The awards given Sunday were Alana Robinson, first place, grades 5-6; Susanne Thomas, second place, grades 5-6; Gracie Vinzant, third place, grades 5-6; Nathan Quinn Kelsch, first place, grades 7-8; Archie W. Case, second place, grades 7-8; and Joe Maddock, third place, grades 7-8.