Veterans Day Essay Contest

CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR WINNERS OF THE 2023 Veterans Day Student Essay Contest

The Winners of the 2023 “Student Leadership in America” Essay Contest are:

Middle School Winner: David Contreras, “Mr. Graham Nelms”

8th Grade, Contreras Home School in Henrico County (Teacher: Rachel Contreras)

Read DAVID’s winning essay here

High School Winner: Mia Ramos,  “An Unsung Hero”

11th Grade, W. T. Woodson High School in Fairfax County (Teacher: Ashley Kipperman)

Read Mia’s winning essay here

Both winners received a gift package, presented by McDonald’s Owner-Operators of Richmond and Hampton Roads, Virginia.

McDonald’s Marketing Representative Christina Dick alongside the 2023 Essay Contest Winners, Mia Ramos and David Contreras

2023 Runner up: 

High School: Alice Shin, Veterans Day Essay

10th Grade, Battlefield High School in Prince William County (Teacher: Daniel Vasenko)

Prompt: Write about a Virginian who served in the United States military during the Korean War era whose story inspires you.

July of 2023 marked the seventy-year anniversary of the conclusion of the Korean War (1950-1953). To honor those men and women who served in the military during the war in Asia, the Virginia War Memorial is calling on all students to write about a service member who inspires them.

The subject of your essay may be someone your family knows or knew personally, or it may be the story of a Virginia Korean War era veteran that you have researched. When selecting the subject of your essay, consider your family, members of your community, or others whose stories resonate with you personally. He or she may be from any branch of the military and have served at any time during the Korean War. Consider what lessons they have taught you, and what we could all learn from their example. Your essay should focus on their time in service, though you may also address their time as a civilian or veteran if relevant.

You may develop your response through speaking with an individual, speaking with people who knew them, and using primary sources. Personal interviews are encouraged, but feel free to utilize newspaper records, personal stories, military records, letters, books, internet research, or more to tell us about your subject and why they inspire you.

A great place for information about Virginians who served in the Korean War is the archives at the Virginia War Memorial. Archivist Sylvia Marshall has access to archival material and oral histories that can help you to create an essay. Feel free to reach out to her at and let her know that you are researching for the Veteran’s Day Essay Contest.

The Virginia Military Dead Database created by the Library of Virginia is another great resource.

Successful essays will have a clear focus, address the theme directly, and use a combination of cited sources and personal experiences. Students must properly cite their sources in a bibliography (APA or MLA style) and include the bibliography with their submission. Entries will be judged on clarity of thought, grammar, spelling, and punctuation, and adherence to the contest theme and guidelines.


Essay Contest Rules & Guidelines:

1. This contest is open to all Virginia Middle and High School public, private, or homeschooled students. A winning entry will be chosen from each Grade Range (grades 6-8 and 9-12).

2. Submissions must be between 500-750 words and use at least one primary source. Students must properly cite their sources in a bibliography (APA or MLA style) and include the bibliography with their submission.

3. Entries will be judged on clarity of thought, adherence to the contest theme and guidelines, and proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

4. Entries are due Sunday, October 15 by 11:59 p.m. Entries received after this time will not be considered.

5. Entries should be submitted online HERE

6. First place winners (in the grades 6-8 and 9-12 categories) will receive a prize package through McDonalds of Richmond and Hampton Roads. Winners will also be invited to read their winning essays aloud at the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Veterans Day Ceremony on Friday, November 10, 2023.

7. By submitting an entry, the student agrees that the work is original and unassisted. The Virginia War Memorial Foundation holds the right to publish any submissions to this contest on its website and in other print materials (with credit to the author).

Printable Rules