Educating our youth about the sacrifices and service our military veterans provide is a part of the mission of the Phoenix Veterans Day Parade. So, the non-profit parade organizers Honoring America’s’s Veterans once again hosted the Phoenix Veterans Day Parade Essay Contest this year as part of the education effort.

Open to all high-school-age students in grades 9-12 in Maricopa County, the essay theme focus this year was the parade theme of “Welcome Home Vietnam Heroes.” A total of 113 essays were received and were judged on creative writing, grammar, originality, content and theme focus. First-, second- and third-place winners receive cash prizes courtesy of Durant’s Restaurant, a ride in the parade and several other “perks” as a way of saying thanks for their efforts.

We are pleased to present this year’s third-place-winning essay by Koriana Cannon, a 10th grade student at Peoria High School.

Welcome Home Heroes

solemn-vetsThank you and welcome home to all the Vietnam heroes. Thank you for being brave and loyal to our country. Thank you for trying your very best. Thank you, Vietnam vets – you are truly American heroes.

Over three-fourths of you who served in the Vietnam war were volunteers. You volunteered to serve in a war that not many people liked. You cared when no one else cared. You saluted a flag that turned its back on you. You did not get the thank you and welcome home you deserved. Thank you to all the volunteers, draftees and everyone who served for America in the Vietnam war.

Many of you came home with PTSD. You still carry memories that burn deep inside you. You remember fighting in jungles and sleeping in the strangest places. You remember fighting endlessly for our country. You remember fighting for America’s freedom and America’s future. You don’t remember many people welcoming you home, so we want to say, “Welcome home, heroes.”

You sacrificed your lives for our country. Not just physically, but mentally. You left your families to fight, knowing you may never see them again. Some died for red, white and blue. Some died as worthy, proud and amazing American soldiers. Thank you very much to the 58,272 Vietnam heroes who never returned – you won’t be forgotten.

You are heroes. You are our heroes. You fought and died for us to live free. You were treated so poorly when you came home, and we apologize for that. We apologize for what you went through when you returned. We apologize for not giving you the welcome you deserved when you finally returned home. Heroes deserve way more than what you got when you came home. We hope you have forgiven us for our actions. We thank you and we love you for fighting for our freedom.

Thank you and welcome home to all the Vietnam heroes. Thank you so much for being brave and loyal for 19 years and 180 days. Thank you very much to the 58,272 heroes who tried their very best and didn’t return home – may you all rest in peace. Thank you so much to the three-fourths of you who volunteered. Thank you so much to those who were drafted. Thank you so much to the heroes who still suffer from PTSD – we hope you get better soon. Thank you so much for being strong and fighting for the red, white and blue. Thank you, Vietnam vets – you are truly American heroes. You may not know us, but we know you.

Welcome home, heroes!