We had nearly 100 entries for our essay contest this year! Writing to the theme of “OUT OF THE TRENCHES: A Century of Remembrance – WWI 1918,” students were judged on Creative Writing, Grammar, Originality, Content, and Theme Focus. The winners will receive cash prizes courtesy of Durant’s Restaurant, a ride in the parade, winning essays printed in the parade program and more. AND each winner’s teacher will receive $150 for use in their classrooms!

Below is our first-place winning essay – be sure to look for all of the winners on the Hall of Flame fire truck in the Parade!

1st Place

Jake Marr
11th grade, Seton Catholic Prep; Teacher: Patricia Nash

ENDURING THEIR LIVES IN THE TRENCHES: THE SOLDIERS OF WWI

Imagine a dark world; a world full of blackness and despair. The air reeks of rotten flesh and feces; the smell permeates every inch of porous garments. Food is a luxury; what is consumed is unnameable and unidentifiable. Mud covers everything; equipment, clothing, quarters, and food cannot escape the mud’s ubiquity. People from different walks of life would call this hell, a nightmare, or punishment. Yet all those who took part in this event were not being punished, but they could not leave. Some of those who saw the conclusion of this war did not truly leave it behind. After their discharge from the army, this sick version of hell on Earth remained with them. All of it hung fresh in their mind. These heroes could not get away; the wound never healed, it was continually reopened and closed.

Charles Edward Dilkes

The World War I trenches proved to be cause of mental scars to many veterans of the conflict. Numerous brave men endured their lives in the trenches and were privileged enough to leave them behind, but countless amounts of soldiers did not receive the same opportunity. It was not uncommon to be buried alive, shelling would throw enough dirt onto a man that he could not be dug out. Curiosity killed men as well. A quick look over the trench wall could prove fatal or disabling to one’s skull. Furthermore, even in the confines of the trenches, the mud and water could kill a man. The constant dampness around a man’s foot would cause it to become gangrenous and require amputation. No matter the situation, nobody was safe in the trenches.

One man knew the trenches well. He was tasked with repairing the trenches and improving them to better suit battle condition. This man was Sergeant Charles Edward Dilkes. He was the leader of a division of trench engineers. These men led by Dilkes would install first aid stations, create communication trenches, and repair damages done to the various lines. Dilkes’ position sounds like that of a non-combatant, but his every task was done under enemy fire. Sergeant Dilkes put himself and his division in harm’s way on every single mission to ensure the safety and comfort of divisions fighting in the mud. Sergeant Dilkes was a strong man who encountered the horrors of the trenches every day in the war.

Sergeant Dilkes went on to serve up until the signing of the armistice. As Dilkes was discharged from service, he collected his various diaries and records to develop a memoir upon his return to the states. His contributions to the war shed a different light on the trenches on the allied front. Dilkes maintained the very ground that protected and laid waste to scores of great men. Not every soldier can share the intimacy he had with the trenches.