"A lot of people just look at the flag and say the Pledge and don’t think about it, but when I say the Pledge, I think about the men and women fighting for our country and doing their best. They love this country and are willing to die for it."

These edifying words were written by a St. Patrick’s School fifth grader who won this year’s Perry American Legion Post 85 essay contest. The theme of this year’s essay was "What the flag means to me."

Cheyanne Hurley wrote the winning essay, and Elizabeth Rodriguez took honors as first runner up. They are both students in Mrs. Aldridge’s fifth grade class at St. Pat’s. Miss Hurley’s parents are Nancy Hurley and Richard Hurley of Perry, and Miss Rodriguez’s parents are Aurora and Oavaldo Rodriguez of Perry.

Legionnaires chose the winning entries after carefully reading them at the Dec. 10 American Legion meeting, according to Mike Kelley, Post Commander.

"During a review of the essays at our December meeting, one of our Legionnaires began to tear up while reading," Kelley said. "We have some truly remarkable young people at St. Patricks’ School."

The first place essay was awarded $25 and the second $20. The winners also received certificates of appreciation from Post 85.

"One big concern among all veterans is the thought of being forgotten for their efforts," Kelley said, "and we don’t like anyone being disrespectful to our flag."

"I love America," wrote one of the essayists. "America means justice and freedom."

The other wrote, "The American flag means honor, respect and justice. You can respect the flag by taking off your hat while saying the National Anthem."

"I am proud to be an American," and "I love America," they wrote.

Both the runner up and first place entries were selected from eight submissions, and the winners received their certificates and awards at a school assembly Dec. 19.