‘Let patriotism prevail’: Students, veterans recognized during awards ceremony in Santa Clara

Santa Clara —  Bridges between generations were built Tuesday morning when the group Let Patriotism Prevail handed out awards for its yearly essay contest at Lava Ridge Intermediate School in Santa Clara.

Jeffrey McKenna (left) honors veteran David Fox, who served in WWII, Korea and Vietnam, Santa Clara, Utah, April 19, 2022 | Photo by E. George Goold, St. George News

Local attorney and historical writer Jeffrey McKenna teamed up with the Southern Utah Veteran’s Home to organize the ceremony, which honored middle school students nationwide who participated in the essay contest.

Middle school students across the country read McKenna’s book “Saving Doctor Warren… ‘A True Patriot’” and then wrote essays on the theme of patriotism. Over 220 entries were pared down to 10 finalists, and judges announced the three winners at the ceremony.

In McKenna’s book, a fictional 14-year old character named Steve O’Dell goes on a journey through time in order to understand what it means to be a patriot.

McKenna told St. George News that the essay writers in the contest go through the same journey in a case of life imitating art.

“You’ve got a modern-day 2022 kid that’s bridging that generation to 9/11,” McKenna said. “That’s then bridging the generation to World War II, and then bridging the generations to 1770s Boston. So it’s really cool.”

Ceremony attendees got a chance to see another manifestation of bridge building when special recognition was awarded to David Fox, a resident of the Southern Utah Veteran’s Home who is a distinguished veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

Erick Vargas (second from left) is presented a check for achieving the Junior Patriot Award, Santa Clara, Utah, April 19, 2022 | Photo by E. George Goold, St. George News

Erick Vargas, a seventh-grader at Lava Ridge Intermediate School, participated in the essay contest and earned the Junior Patriot Award for his efforts.

“I feel proud that I was able to do it and win a prize,” Vargas said. “It was stressful, but I’m happy I did it.”

Vargas said it was difficult writing the essay in time for the contest while still making it sound good for the readers and judges.

“I wrote about how the younger generations say the Pledge of Allegiance, but they don’t understand what it really means,” Vargas said. “It’s important to let patriotism prevail and get the younger generations to feel proud of their country.”

Three of the 10 finalists in the essay contest are from Utah: Mara Richey, Marley Ham and Malakai Spiess.

Five of the finalists are students in Alabama: Anna Mayor (first-place winner), James Puckett, Holliss Thomasson, Emmy Cribbs and Eva Worthen.

The other two finalists were Josephine Clapper of Texas (third-place winner) and Alexander Dye of Washington (second-place winner).

This was the second year for the essay contest. Organizers said they hope next year’s ceremony will be held at the Southern Utah Veteran’s Home once COVID-19 restrictions allow.

Visit the Let Patriotism Prevail website for more information on the contest, including copies of the full text of each of the winning three essays.

Read about last year’s awards ceremony here.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2022, all rights reserved.

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