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Young writers inspiring

If you ever take your freedom for granted or can't even articulate what it means to be free, I have a suggestion that worked great for me and my 14-year-old son. We trekked to the Grandview VFW Post to judge Patriotic Pen essays.

I have never equated the right to elect public servants as one of the freedoms we enjoy as an American. Nor have I ever equated serving on a jury with freedom (how many of us try to dodge that one?).

Reading the essays submitted by eighth graders helped change me and my son's world view, so to speak.

Essay winner Kaelen Clute equated voting and serving on juries, or other 'civic duties,' as he put it, as a way to honor veterans.

That was inspiring.

So, too, was the fact that so many of the essay writers, almost all, felt like a great way to honor veterans would be to simply greet one when you recognize him or her, shake their hand and thank them.

I remember a few years ago sitting in downtown Grandview and along came a Marine in what appeared to be full dress. I didn't know what to do, but I do know I wanted to greet and thank him. He looked so intimidating, I never did.

It's amazing that young people would suggest their elders break out of their shell and recognize freedom isn't free by verbally thanking a vet.

Judging the essays inspired my son, too, and he was vocal about it. After going through about 10 of them, we took a break outside. As Dennis excitedly chatted away about being inspired, along came a Desert Storm vet wearing a hat that indicated he was military.

They began to chat and the vet started pointing out the plaques at the VFW featuring names of his family members that served in the United States Armed Forces.

He told Dennis that his family had made their living by working in the field. "But we got our education and we served this country. We did it for you."

Dennis was awestruck with respect, and also speechless.

I think it was a big day for both of us.

Next time I get called to serve on a jury, I'll be looking at my civic duty in a different light. And If I see a soldier in full military dress, I believe now I will have the courage to walk up to him or her and express my gratitude.

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