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2016 "Celebrating the Veteran in My Life" Poetry Contest Winners

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Sen. Franken recently announced the Minnesota students who won his fifth annual Poetry Contest. Their poems about "Celebrating the Veteran in My Life" will be displayed in his Senate office and are included below.

Grades K-5:
First Place: Mallori Headley
Second Place: Taryn Lessman
Third Place: Avery Gustafson  

Grades 6-8: 
First Place: Caylee Weber
Second Place: Ellie Rosemarie Wachenheim
Second Place: Federico Campana
Third Place: Autumn Paulus

Grades 9-12:
First Place: Kristen Holmes
Second Place: Tessla Crowell
Third Place: Gabrielle Koepke


"I AM"
Mallori Headley
Grade K-5 (1st Place)

I am                            a military child
I wonder                      why he is gone so long
I hear                          my family crying
I see                           daddy leaving
I want                          him to come home
I am                            a military child

I pretend                      that he’s home
I feel                            proud of him
I touch                         his hand
I worry                         about my dad in the army
I cry                             when he has to leave
I am                             a military child

I understand                 why he has to leave
I say                            “be safe”
I dream                        for him to make a better world
I try                             to be strong
I hope                          for him to come home safe
I am                            a military child


"A Veteran I Know"
Taryn Lessman
Grade K-5 (2nd Place)

This is a poem for a veteran I know,
he is my grandpa, a pleasant fellow.
he fought for our country,
In a long, hard war,
I appreciate the sacrifice he made for,
our country, you, and me!
He witnessed the battlefield,
saw pain and sorrow,
he saw brave men fall.
My grandpa’s a hero,
I can tell you that!
My grandpa’s a veteran,
and I love him so.


"My Grandpa Richard, A Veteran"
Avery Gustafson
Grade K-5 (3rd Place)

My amazingly brave man. Those stories. That war.
A devastating war. My Grandpa Richard. The face of USA.

I could not imagine how much it took out of him leaving his family for America.
To protect the country.
To think of all the training he went through, serving for our safety.

With all determination, he was involved with our freedom.

Going forth, gun shots and explosive material.
The war must have been hard.
But he is not just any Veteran, he is my Veteran.
My Grandpa Richard. 


"For My Uncle"
Caylee Weber
Grade 6-8 (1st Place)

Bold, daring, courageous, caring.
Nobody realizes until that somebody is gone.
The pain is still there and I know I’m not alone.
Other people feel it, the departure from home.
They protect you and me,
Knowing that freedom is not free.
James was born in 1989
And was greeted with family who were just fine.
Enjoying snowmobiles and four wheelers,
Troublemaking was his beguiler.
In grade school he attended Bird Island school, St. Mary’s.
To learn the faith that through his life he’d carry.
For high school he went to BOLD,
And joined the army, on that idea he was sold.
Specialist James Wertish
now that was his name,
When that plane took off, it wasn’t the same.
That plane took off from Minneapolis, Minnesota,
To fight for us, Mississippi to North Dakota.
He flew over the Atlantic ocean,
To fight in all the commotion.
To Iraq he went,
To where the army sent.
He landed at his army base
In a very war stricken place.
He was trained for war
and fought hard core.
One day at the base,
Where he thought he was safe.
The terrorists shot a bomb in.
My uncle, my friend, my kin.
He and two others died,
Carlos Wilcox, Dan Drevnick, and James all went with pride.
Given the sorrow,
Hoping for a better tomorrow.
All the lives that the terrorists take,
But I know he died for our country’s sake.


"Celebrating ALL the Veterans in Our Lives"
Ellie Rosemarie Wachenheim
Grade 6-8 (2nd Place)

On each day
of the 365
soldiers and veterans should stand in honor and in pride
There are soldiers that are young and veterans that are old
and they all fought for
us in the dark and in the cold
We are proud of those who’ve lived
We are grateful to those who died
And with each and every one
we share our wish that you will fly
There are too many of you to individually behold
Although we may not know each and every name
we thank all of you just the same
We are all very grateful to you
for how we can fly our flag of red and white and blue
so to every veteran out there
“May God Bless You”


"Celebrating the Veterans in My Life"
Federico Campana
Grade 6-8 (2nd Place)

My family
tree is bursting with
veterans on one side.  Having been
in the United States since the signing of the
Declaration of Independence, they have made their
presence known in many of the Armed Forces.
From Grandpa Jim spending time in Okinawa
with the Army during Vietnam, and Great Grandpa Richard,
my namesake who I never got to meet, fighting in World War II.
It’s their sacrifice, the men and women, that has given me the freedom to even be here today!  My dad immigrated from Perú before I was even born. 
I’m proud to be bi-racial and bilingual.  My passport has more stamps already than many people have in all their life.  All of my good fortune; my
adventures, my travels, my family, are the bi-product of their
hard work.  Those branches unbroken, though many
now gone, are a promise for a future that is free.
My thanks are overflowing.  My love
in never-ending.
Their names
ever written
on my heart.
William &
and Kim
Army, Air Corps and Marines; each one represented.
Even those I haven’t met have positively impacted me.  My thanks to you all!  I am honored to see you celebrated!  My gratitude is sincere.  Your names will be passed on.


Autumn Paulus
Grade 6-8 (3rd Place)

I look into my Grandma’s eyes,
And there I find, to no surprise,
Love and caring, but also grief,
From the war, which gives no relief.

She worked as a nurse, in the Vietnam War,
Where the bombings sent everyone to the floor,
She healed the many wounded, mainly
Shrapnel, head wounds, just trying to comfort humanely.

Now she lays, rests in peace,
Free from the war that would not cease,
Free from burdens, such as tumors,
Free from trying to save futures.

We miss her dearly, but we know,
That it was time to see her go.


"Axel Holmes"
Kristen Holmes
Grade 9-12 (1st Place)

I will never know the fight,
for which you have been through.
I will never know the war,
for which you have sacrificed.
I will never know your fears,
as they remain unsaid.
But I know you have the strength and ability to push through,
To get over this nightmare, to get through this pain;
To live for once without this ordeal,
To overcome this bewildering horror called life.
Without the mask you have worn for so long
The mask that disguised your forever living memories,
And turned them Into real life fears.
Fears that no one else will fear,
Because of you.
Because you fought for our freedom,
You defended our territory;
You honored our country.

Miigwetch ogichidaa.


Tessla Crowell
Grade 9-12 (2nd Place)

The times were so different then,
Boys would quickly turn to men.

The times were simpler but work was tough,
Backs were strong and hands were rough.

He helped to care for his mother,
With his sisters and his brother

He joined the Army it was World War II
With no idea where he would be or what he’d do.

Portland was the first place he would see,
He quickly became and Army MP.

He left the states for Germany,
Where he remained an Army MP

German prisoners he would guard,
He guarded the AWOL and walked the yard.

He served for a few years before he had to leave
His mother passed and so on German soil he would grieve

He returned to the states and started a life
Bought some land and married his wife

He never spoke of his time in the war
He kept it in inside locked up tight in his core

Everyone was curious of what it was like
He refused to tell stories about the fight.

But his secrets of war remained in his head
And he carried them with him until he was dead

I can only imagine the things that he saw
In the middle of Germany, in the prime of it all


"Saved by the Sock"
Gabrielle Koepke
Grade 9-12 (3rd Place)

 Warmed air blew across my face when I entered the residential place

That my friend and hero, Hillbilly Holt, and his World War II medals, glistening gold

Lived in and bedazzled with bravery. He would always smile when he saw me

Wheelchair-bound, he wore only one sock. It had once saved his life against the bomb's clock

He would boast of his courage and tell me his story. In the Battle of the Bulge, he saved Old Glory

When a ruthless wind whipped his sinewy hands—hands digging for shelter on enemy land

Threads of his sock became soaked from raw labor, his search for a dry one would work in his favor.

As soon as he hid with his gutsy companion, the foxhole he'd been in was blast like a cannon!

His friend gave a purple sock—still Holt pressed on; as he returned to shelter, the last one was bombed!

Saved twice by a single sock, emblem of bravery; Holt’s efforts were vital against Hitler’s knavery.

He opened the doors to the camps of the crying, he rescued young mothers whose children were dying.

I remember his life, I remember his stories; Holt left this world blazing in glory.

Every day I will think of his strength and his courage which he exhibited proudly against the Nazis' scourge.

I shall honor his memory and all of the others, America's patriots, sisters and brothers.

America, home of the strong and the free, protected by heroes on land and at sea.

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