The town’s Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) chapter awarded the top prize for this year’s Patriots Pen essay competition to Sophie Desmarais of East Ridge Middle School and Lindsay Jennings of Scotts Ridge Middle School.

The young women wrote essays on the theme of “America’s gift to my generation.”

A single winner is usually picked from one of the middle schools, but this year the prize was awarded to both because the two essays “were that good,” and it was “just too hard to eliminate one over the other,” said VFW member Chris Cutter, who coordinates the contest between the VFW and the schools.

Gene Waradzin, post commander for VFW Post 3052, said he was confident “our two entrants have a very great chance of winning a state and/or national prize.”

“Their essays were beautiful, well-written and inspiring,” he added.

The young women were awarded $100 each for their winning essays.

More than 300 students from East Ridge and Scotts Ridge middle schools competed in the essay contest, a press release from the VFW said. They joined some 120,000 students vying for national prizes that range from $500 to an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., for the grand prize winner and a parent or guardian.

Essays

Sophie, an eighth grade student at East Ridge, wrote in her essay that America’s gift to her generation is “a promise.”

“America holds a promise that I can be whatever I want to be,” she wrote. “A promise that I will be able to live a good life. A promise that I will be able to do what my ancestors never did.” She concluded by thanking the veterans “who allow us to have that promise.”

Lindsay, who attends Scotts Ridge, opened her essay with a quote from G.K. Chesterton, who said that “the true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind.” Lindsay wrote that she included the quote in a letter to her godfather, shortly before his unit shipped out.

Lindsay also wrote about how her last name came from a slave plantation in South Carolina. “This made me think that if I was born 60 years earlier, I would not be even able to go to the same school as most of my friends because I had black skin,” she wrote.

In their press release, the members of the the Ridgefield VFW thanked teachers Chris Petersen from Scotts Ridge and Mike Hougasian from East Ridge “for all their effort in making this program so successful.”