An essay by a Greencastle-Antrim Middle School eighth-grader was judged tops among about 1,200 entries from sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders in a three-county area and now advances to the state level.

Kris Leiboldt, 14, is a student in one of Ray Mowery’s language arts classes, for which writing essays for the VFW’S Patriot’s Pen contest is a requirement.

This year’s theme was “America’s Gift to My Generation.”

“I thought about what gifts America has given me and how I wouldn’t have them without the freedoms we have,” said Kris, the son of Tim and Brenda Leiboldt.

He spent about a week working on the essay, which includes the quote from President Ronald Reagan: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”

Language arts is not Kris’ favorite subject, but “I don’t hate it.” He said his favorite class is probably gym

“I didn’t know I could write. I was super surprised,” Kris said, adding the recognition has given him more confidence in his writing. He also enjoys mixed martial arts, runs cross country in the fall and competes in throwing events during spring track season.

He may want to go into the military at 18 and become a police officer.

Mowery noted it is interesting that kids who do well writing about patriotic topics often have an affinity for the military.

Kris, his parents and Mowery will be invited the the district VFW awards banquet, where the finalists will read their essays on stage.

“America’s Gift to My Generation”

By Kris Leiboldt

America has given me many gifts over the years. But I believe there has been one that stood out a lot more than the others. That is its freedoms. Without the freedoms we have in America, we wouldn’t enjoy the privileges we have today such as going to school, being able to travel, and especially freedom of speech or religion. I believe America has the freedoms it does because of our founding fathers and men who have fought or died for us to be safe and free. That is what I believe to be the greatest gift America has given me.

As Ronald Reagan once said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same”. I believe freedom is not given it must be fought for and earned by a nation. Today we have men and women overseas in middle eastern countries constantly fighting for us just like it was about 55 years ago in Vietnam and about 76 years ago in WWII. The fight for freedom is never ending.

I believe that America has all its rights because of freedom. America is a country that is built on freedom and sacrifice. You shouldn’t take your freedoms for granted because they may not always be there. America is unlike a lot of countries. America has been blessed that there are people who will sacrifice their freedoms for someone else’s. I believe that America is the greatest country in the world because of the gifts it has given to us. But you can’t have any of those gifts without freedom. Everyone in America should appreciate everything that has been given to them because they were not bought, they were earned. That is America’s greatest gift to my generation.

 Other winners 

Kris’s essay actually placed second when the 80 to 90 G-AMS entries were judged at the Greencastle VFW, where four were selected to advance to the district level, which includes Adams, Franklin and York counties. The local results were: Evan Shatzer, first; Kris Leiboldt, second; Emma Bathgate, third; and Paris Thiele, fourth.

Mowery’s classes have been entering the contest for eight or nine years and last year, Emma Henrich, was the first finalist at the district level, where she placed third. Now a freshman at Greencastle-Antrim High School, she has continued her success as the Greencastle VFW’s Voice of Democracy speech contest.