GRANDVIEW - For his first year of public schooling, Kaelen Clute isn't doing all that bad...last month the Grandview Middle School student put his thoughts to paper and just recently learned he'd taken took top honors in the local Patriotic Pen essay contest, part of a national contest locally hosted by the Grandview VFW Ladies Auxiliary.
"He's funny because he gets so excited, even about assemblies," said his teacher, Cheryl Lindsley, adding, "He's such a delight!"
Students participating in the contest had to write an essay on the subject matter "When is the right time to honor our military heroes."
Clute, a self-described "convicted patriot," was the only essay writer to suggest that voting and serving on jury duty are two ways to honor veterans.
"My dad talked to me about the whole voting thing," said the eighth grader. "Voting is one of the biggest American things, that goes without saying."
Of winning first place honors, Clute said, "Today is awesome!"
When asked what he meant when he describes himself as a convicted patriot, Clute said, "I believe in America, I believe in our potential. There've been too many soldiers in our family not to."
Clute began his essay with a quote from Mitch Clute: "You know when the right time to honor our military veterans is? Whenever you get to enjoy your rights as an American." He cited freedom of religion and the right to buy a book about how bad the government is as rights protected by soldiers.
Second place winner Annie Lindsley drew on the experience of her 22-year-old brother's recent return home from Afghanistan. "And my dad's in the Air Force, too.
"It was different to have a personal experience. It probably helped it more. I used words that helped describe my feelings."
Third place winner Kasi Prieto personalized her essay and put herself into the shoes of children whose parents are serving abroad. "My introduction was about how many toddlers today live without their mom or dad (because they're serving the country). It just makes me sentimental," she said, adding that she's very close to her mother. "I couldn't imagine life without her."
Clute's essay will next be judged at the District level, which includes Lower Valley VFW posts from Sunnyside, Grandview and Prosser.
Each student received a certificate of participation. Clute received a $100 savings bond, Lindsley a $75 savings bond and Prieto received one for $50.