War Essays Kids

The idea of child soldiers is itself young. International law organisations didn’t take up the issue until the close of the 20th century and, even then, they did so in a cautious and patchwork manner. The 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child asks governments to take ‘all feasible measures’ to keep children under 15 from direct combat. In 2000, the UN General Assembly committed to raising the age to 18, and in 2002 the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict was made good – sort of. Non-state guerrilla groups are banned from recruiting anyone under 18, while states are allowed to enlist volunteers over 15. The child soldier as a criminal aberration, a violation of even the rules of war, is more or less a 21st-century idea.

But what it lacks in history, the child soldier makes up for with dramatic pathos. Whether it’s an aid organisation making a fundraising pitch or a news anchor plucking heartstrings, nothing conveys the depravity of far-off conflict quite like the image of a nine-year-old smoking a cigarette and toting an AK-47. The memoir A Long Way Gone (2007) by the former child soldier Ishmael Beah tells the now-familiar story of forcible recruitment at 12, drugs, coercion and four years of violence, before a rescue by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Though a lot of the facts are now disputed, Beah’s stories of Sierra Leone helped to establish the child soldier as an archetype of misfortune.

Over the past 20 years, non-governmental organisations of varying size have sprung up to remove minors from combat around the world. In 1998, eight major human‑rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, teamed up to form the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers; four years later they established 12 February as ‘Red Hand Day’ to raise awareness and stop the use of child soldiers. Child‑soldier activism reached a popular crescendo with the viral video KONY 2012 from the missionary group Invisible Children, made to promote their campaign to arrest Joseph Kony, the head of the Ugandan rebel Lord’s Resistance Army.

The child soldier that haunts the Western imagination is kidnapped, brainwashed, drugged, and forced to commit atrocities until you, the Western donor, do something to stop the tragedy.

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War, as it is said, is hell, and no war has ever exempted children, either as victims or combatants. Our recent attention to the practice of child soldiering is less about changes in the nature of modern combat and more to do with the globalising ideal of childhood as a sheltered period of development. As Helen Brocklehurst, a lecturer in international relations at Swansea University in Wales, writes in her essay ‘Childhood in Conflict: Can the Real Child Soldier Please Stand Up?’ (2009), the emergence of the phrase ‘child soldier’ ‘marks the point at which a society’s conception of childhood became incommensurable when harnessed to its concept of warfare’. As it so happened, we reached this point right around the time capitalism defeated communism and the end-of-history theorists gleefully declared there were no wars left to fight. What remains is pacification, to clean up the crazy or evil groups who decline to get with the program.

In this way, the child soldier comes to stand for all illegitimate armed groups, whose motives are always irrational – as are those of the child soldier. Their fighting is a misguided response to trauma, or the result of cult-style programming, or is forced by the threat of violence from a monomaniacal strongman. Child soldiers are victims as well as perpetrators, just like all non‑state combatants are victims of their own foolish intransigence. In the age of liberal democracy and non-violent resistance, all insurgency is as unnatural as an adolescent lieutenant. And since I can find no historical record of a popular uprising that did not include teenagers (including America’s own), any people’s revolution is a de facto violation of international law. Once a militia anywhere in the world is accused of using child soldiers, the West is self-authorised to intervene and restore order. Kony 2012 was a good internet joke, but it also led directly to congressmen in both houses and parties calling for an increased US presence in central Africa.

The use of children in combat may be historically uncommon, but it wasn’t illegal or surprising that adolescents went to war. We know this in part because we’ve kept past ‘child soldiers’ alive in history and legend. In his book Reimagining Child Soldiers in International Law and Policy (2012), Mark A Drumbl cites just a few examples: Carl von Clausewitz, a Prussian general and the author of On War (1832), joined the Prussian army at 12; Alexander the Great became regent and quelled a Thracian rebellion at 16; and Joan of Arc was also a teenager when she petitioned the king for permission to travel with the army to Orleans in 1429. David was even more precocious when he slew Goliath and ascended to the throne. And there were teens at the Boston Tea Party in 1773, while the 17-year-old Samuel Maverick was one of five colonists killed at the Boston Massacre in 1770. Drumbl also includes the civil rights activist Claudette Colvin, who at the age of 15, nine months before Rosa Parks, refused to give up her bus seat. The list goes on, and for all the names we know, there are many more lost to time.

Now we’ve outgrown child soldiering, we can look back on it as a testament to the bravery of our ancestors

In these stories, the children’s youth wasn’t a sign that their cause was corrupt or misguided. On the contrary, inspired children were a sign of favour from God – or history. The presence of child soldiers today immediately depoliticises the conflict and renders it a question of criminality, but child soldiers in old war stories raise the question of the future, which is to say now. History’s winners can take pleasure in past battles, they can place themselves in the shoes of precocious soldier-children because they know how the story ends: liberal capitalist democracy, the nation-state system, the UN. Now that we’ve grown out of child soldiering, we can look back on it fondly, as a testament to the foresight and bravery of our ancestors. Whatever they did, after all, got us here.

As long as they’re separated from contemporary geopolitics, child-soldier narratives are considered perfectly appropriate for US kids. Think about the boy wizard Harry Potter: a war orphan seized from his surviving relatives at age 10, Harry is brought to a secluded academy run by former militants, told he is destined for glory, and taught to fight. When the warlord who killed his parents returns to make a power play, the teenage Harry raises and trains an armed cadre of his fellow high-schoolers to fight internal and external enemies. One of these child soldiers is killed in an ensuing battle. Post-war, Harry and his best friend Ron, both still teenagers, join the new government’s military police unit. ‘They are now the experts,’ the novels’ author JK Rowling told reporters in 2007, expanding on the epilogue of her last book in the series. ‘It doesn’t matter how old they are or what else they’ve done.’ The International Criminal Court might beg to differ, but they’re not in the habit of prosecuting winners.

In fictional ‘just war’ scenarios, such as the rise of Voldemort or a communist invasion, Americans are far less conflicted about whether or not children can choose to be guerrillas. Though US territory hasn’t been occupied by a foreign power since the War of 1812, that doesn’t stop us from imagining what we would do if it happened. In the movie Red Dawn (1984), the Soviet Union and its Cuban allies invade and quickly conquer the US. (In the 2012 remake, the invader is North Korea.) The protagonists are a scrappy group of Colorado high-schoolers who take to the hills and mount an offensive against the Ruskies. The Wolverines (named after their school mascot) train and fight and die, but there’s no real question as to whether they should surrender or if they’re too young to take on their responsibilities. At the end of the original movie, a war memorial stands for the Wolverines: ‘In the early days of World War III, guerrillas – mostly children – placed the names of their lost upon this rock. They fought here alone and gave up their lives, so that this nation shall not perish from the earth.’

When it comes to the homeland, no international body can tell our teens to stand down.

Race is one of the reasons it’s easier for Western media consumers to imagine teenagers as heroes in Colorado or magical Scotland than in Sri Lanka or Colombia. If we’re exposed only to frozen images of these children as objects of sympathy – soft-eyed, mute, sad – it’s harder to put ourselves in their position and imagine what their motivations might be as individuals.

The Harry Potter series underestimates the lifelong trauma these children would experience, never mind whether they should be immediately taking jobs as civil servants. International standards would call for them to be demobilised and reintegrated into the civilian population. But at least in Harry Potter or, for that matter, The Hunger Games novels by Suzanne Collins, children get to experience a range of emotions, to make choices and have intentions. Meanwhile, the aid world’s portrayal of pre-demobilisation child soldiers presents them as one-dimensional, not culpable for their actions because of coercion or brainwashing. This flat image serves the interests of aid organisations and the UN General Assembly, but it requires us to ignore the voices of the children themselves.

For example, in 2009, UNICEF and Sri Lanka teamed up for a media campaign called ‘Bring Back the Child’ which aimed to discourage underage recruitment, specifically by the rebel group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). In the posters, black-and-white photos of the child soldiers’ unsmiling faces are overlaid on full-colour photos of their bodies engaged in more age-appropriate pastimes. Beside the picture of a girl, the text reads: ‘She wants to be a dancer, not a child soldier.’ A boy wants to play cricket. The rhetoric assumes the child soldiers are abducted or coerced, but surveys of youth recruits to the LTTE suggest that this is relatively rare. In one survey, 18 of 19 teenage boys from the LTTE said they joined voluntarily.

But can a child truly volunteer to join an army? Even when they enlist by choice, child soldiers do so under a set of constraining circumstances. UNICEF makes the choices sound easy: war or dancing, war or games, war or be a doctor. No rational child would pick the former for themselves, and that’s posed as evidence that their freedom has been taken from them. But when the choice is ‘soldier or victim’, voluntarism takes on a different meaning. In northeastern Nigeria, the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) has recruited thousands of teenagers into the armed self-defence groups organised to protect villages from Boko Haram militants. There is no way for these children to opt out of the conflict; in The Daily Beast this March, the Nigerian journalist Philip Obaji Jr puts their choice in stark terms: ‘Fight Boko Haram or be killed by them.’ Some teenagers, understandably, have picked the former.

Young women described their enlistment as a flight from sexual violence and other exploitation into a structured military environment

If boy soldiers are depicted as intrinsically vulnerable, then girl soldiers are doubly so. Consumers of Western media have learned to make the mental leap between young women in danger overseas – and rape. When advocates say 40 per cent of child soldiers are girls, they’re playing on their audience’s worst fears about the role of women in the global South. In an effort to record the stories of girls themselves, in 2002 a team of local researchers led by Yvonne E Keairns of the Quaker UN Office interviewed 24 young women from across four conflicts: Angola, Colombia, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka. In Angola, Keairns’ worst fears were confirmed, with girls forcibly conscripted and sexually abused. But of the other 18 girls, 17 had joined guerrilla groups voluntarily, and their testimony about their choices sheds light on the complexity lacking in our portrait of child soldiers.

Contrary to Keairns’ expectations, the interviews found that three of four guerrilla groups had strict rules regarding sexual relationships between soldiers, including explicit procedures for obtaining and confirming women’s consent. Many of the young women interviewed described their enlistment as a flight from sexual violence and other forms of exploitation in the home into a structured military environment. When these groups did exercise reproductive control, it was usually in the form of forced contraception and abortions to maintain the fitness of the fighting corps. One Sri Lankan militant describes escaping her home on the eve of an unwanted marriage. The statements of the Filipina militants are especially striking: the girls report taking part in a culture of mutual criticism, where they had plenty of time to study, and the group listened to their voices. Training included a lecture on strict sexual harassment policies. ‘In the seminar, it was made clear that it was absolutely prohibited to take advantage of women,’ one interviewee said. ‘I felt very safe; I had no fear.’

And, contrary to Western ideas about the agency of female child soldiers, a majority of those interviewed had made a calculated choice to become militants. These young women had experienced a wide spectrum of wellbeing and harm, but the ‘international community’ shoves them into a one-size-fits-all victim archetype. To assume all girl soldiers undergo the same violence as the combatants in Angola is to exclude three-quarters of their stories. ‘If it were not for the fighting,’ Keairns writes of the Philippines and Colombia, ‘the girls would have preferred life in the armed group over their life as a civilian.’ Aid organisations pursue a policy of ‘prevention, demobilisation, reintegration’ that does not fully take into account the variety of reasons children join guerrilla movements and why they might not want to reintegrate.

The child soldier is a recent idea, and we have barely begun to work out its contradictions. In the contemporary Western imagination, you can be a brave freedom-fighter or an exploited child soldier, but you can’t be both. The tension between these two ideas was laid bare last September in the magazine Marie Claire when the US journalist Elizabeth Griffin wrote about the women of the YPJ, or Women’s Protection Unit, a self-defence force of Marxist-feminist Syrian Kurds currently battling the Islamic State (IS). Rather than become refugees, many young Kurdish women have joined the YPJ to fight IS, though the group officially complies with the Optional Protocol.

The article originally included some of these teen trainees and combatants, saluting them as heroes, and the editors were so caught up in the story that they forgot they were applauding a war crime. Now an awkward editors’ note sits atop the piece online: ‘The efforts of the YPJ are remarkable but Marie Claire does not condone the use of child soldiers in any capacity. This article has been edited to reflect that.’ The manner in which they edited the piece to reflect the universal condemnation of child soldiering was to remove all mention of anyone under 18.

The flat portrayal of child soldiers necessitated by the state of international law says these children can either be traumatised victims or they will become invisible. When flesh-and-blood combatants don’t fit into the rhetorical agenda of existing nation states and supranational organisations, they get erased from the story or written into one that’s more convenient. As ‘child soldiers’, their agency is irrelevant – all the better to put them to work.

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Malcolm Harris

is a writer and editor at The New Inquiry. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.


The Hartford Courant congratulates the students who participated in the 2005 Annual Veterans Day Poster/Essay Contest. The contest, sponsored in partnership with the CT Veterans Day Parade Committee, invites 6th, 7th and 8th graders in Greater Hartford to convey, in words and pictures, what it means to be a military veteran.

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Valerie Stickles
Grade 7, Captain Nathan Hale Middle School, Coventry
2005 Winner

A man boarding a boat,
Waving to his wife,
He may never see her again,
This may end his life.

He feels the boat take off,
He's headed on his way.
His daughter starts to cry,
"Why did Daddy go away?"

His family is getting smaller,
Now they look like ants.
As they disappear,
He gets one last glance.

What is lying ahead for him?
Will he live to tall the tale?
As he approaches the dock,
He hears a soldier wail.

War is horrible, it is death,
Man killing his own brother,
Is that what we're on Earth for?
Just to kill one another?

This many is a veteran,
He made it through it all.
Although he lost an arm,
He still stands strong and tall.

He made it through the terror,
Thinking he would die.
He made it through the killing,
And the late nights when he would cry.

He made it through the missing
His wife and family so,
He made it through not being able
To see his daughter grow.

He sacrificed his life
To protect the USA,
He put himself in danger
Every single day.

When it comes to protection,
Veterans are the key.
This many is a hero,
That's what a veteran means to me.

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Steven Apicello
Grade 7
Vernon Center Middle School
2005 Runner-Up

What is a veteran? Is it a soldier, a person in the air force, someone fighting in the marines? That's not what they are to me. They are freedom fighters, answering the call of duty, responding to our prayers, and most importantly that they help fight for our country, the United States of America.

Through the years we have faced many challenges that we will recognize forever. One war that we have never forgotten and never will is the Revolutionary War. In 1861 to 1865 there was another war we will always remember, The Civil War. In our union, we fought with 2,213,363 service members against 600,000 – 1,500,000 confederate soldiers. We also couldn't forget World War 1 and World War II. Still the most terrifying event that changed our lives was September 11, 2001. We pledged every day to our flag, prayed for them, and saluted those who had saved other's lives by giving up theirs. The tragic nightmare will remind us to make our world a better place.

When Francis Scott Key wrote the star spangled banner almost two hundred years ago, he called America "the land of the free and the home of the brave." Those words still stand strong today as they did back then. Throughout our history American soldiers, marines, air force, and coastguards have bravely answered to defend for our freedom and rights. That is why we as Americans should respect our veterans and thank them for what they have done for all of us, and that is why President Dwight D. Eisenhower said these words: "Now therefore I, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, do hereby call upon all citizens to observe Thursday, November 11th as Veteran's Day. On that day let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, on foreign shores to preserve our heritage of freedom, and let us reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that there efforts shall not be in vain."

I would like to personally thank the veterans for their bravery and dedication. However I would like to thank my Papa and remember my Papa Nick for their years of service to our country. Thank you!

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Ashley Enns
Grade 6
Canton Intermediate School
2005 Runner-Up

What it means to be a veteran is to feel the DUTY to protect our country and to fight for what you believe in. It means to LOVE your country enough to sacrifice your life if necessary. It means to have FAITH in God, your country, and your beliefs.

What it means to be a veteran is to risk your life to help others HEAL when they could not do it on their own. It means to be APPRECIATED by the people you have fought for and protected. It means to have HONOR in everything you do and say.

What it means to be a veteran is to take PRIDE in your service to our country. It means to be PROUD you stood for something.

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Ashley Pinero and Ada Sierra
Grade 6
Pulaski Middle School, New Britain

To me a veteran is someone who loves this country very much. A veteran must love their country in order to leave her or his family for freedom. Not just for their freedom but for all of ours. That is what being a veteran means to me.

What being a veteran means to be is to be brave. To be brave is to stand up, and face your enemy for freedom, protecting your country out of danger, and living in peace. That's what being a veteran means to me.

To be a veteran means to be proud of yourself. A veteran has to be very proud of what they are doing for our country and for us. Why? Because there are many people who want to hurt our country. But, those people who are now joining the military, and our veterans, they are protecting our country from harm. That is what being a veteran means to me.

What being a veteran means to me is to die for this country, to not want this country to be ruled by bad people, and to always protect it. Because if you don't love this country, why would you fight for it? Veterans fight for this country because they love it. They'll do anything for this country, even die for it. That is what being a veteran means to me.

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Darianna Gonzalez
Grade 6
Pulaski Middle School, New Britain

Being a veteran means leaving your family. When veterans leave their family they become very sad because they will miss them.

When people first join the military they have their arms and their legs. Veterans, sometimes lose their arms and their legs, and are never the same as they were before.

Veterans usually can't eat or take a bath. At war they get hungry and dirty. But sometimes there is no eating or taking a bath at war.

Veterans don't get paid a lot of money, but they still die saving this country. They die because they love this country, and all of us.

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Geround Kelley
Grade 8
Pulaski Middle School, New Britain

I think we all have a lot to thank veterans for. If it had not been for these veterans defending citizens of the United States in past wars, we may not be free right now. These men and women dedicated their lives to our freedom, and this took a great deal of bravery and sacrifice. Many veterans even died, and I have seen on the news where many more are still dying, and families are losing their loved ones. It is very sad that thee people lost their lives, but they knew the risks and felt it was their duty and honor to fight on our behalf.

My definition of a veteran is any man or woman who fought in a war and served for our country. Some people only honor those veterans who have passed on, but I believe all veterans deserve special thanks and recognition. Veterans' Day is the day the United States sets aside for this purpose; however, I believe we should all try to honor veterans as often and as much as we can.

Many of my friends have family members who are veterans, and so do I. My grandfather was a veteran. If only he was alive today, he could help me write this essay and explain to me how he served our country. Unfortunately, my grandfather passed away before I was born, so I do not know much about his service, but I know he served, and I am proud that he was a veteran.

Women can be veterans, too. My friend's mother served as a nurse in the United States Army. She cared for injured soldiers hurt during the war. We should remember and thank all the women who served our country.

Both of my brothers want to join the Army, and although I don't think I want to, I support their decision, and one day I will be proud to honor them as veterans. This is what I know about veterans, I hope to learn more about them in the future. God bless those who have lost family members who served our country. We thank the veterans and their families for all that they have done.

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Ajeela Williams
Grade 6
West Middle Elementary School, Hartford

What does it mean to be a veteran? A veteran is a man or woman that use to work in the United States armed services. Veterans have done many wonderful things. They fought for our country and helped us get our freedom. Veterans fought in many deadly battles. Many of them watched as their close friends died in combat. They risked their lives for our so that we could have our rights and freedoms. Due to their courage, we have many freedoms such as freedom of speech and religion. Freedom of speech is when I can say anything I want. If I really wanted to, I could walk outside and yell, "I hate Bush", and no one will or can do anything to me. In other countries people don't have the right to practice freedom of speech or their own religion. Their ruler or President might hang them, chop off their heads, or might even make them stand in a line and shoot them one by one! Veterans fought so we don't have to worry about such awful things. That's why I'm thankful that our country has veterans. Veterans fought so hard to serve our country. When veterans were in battles, many of them got hurt really, really badly. When they got hurt, they got rushed to an emergency room. As soon as they recovered, they went straight back into battle. Veterans tried their hardest to win these battles. Some of them wouldn't have surrendered at all. They would've fought to the death. Every morning, in my class, we all say the Pledge of Allegiance. It is very important to me that we say the Pledge of Allegiance because it shows respect for our country and for our brave veterans. God bless America and God bless our veterans!

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Shamiel Samuels
Grade 6
West Middle Elementary School, Hartford

A veteran is a man or woman that has served in the United States armed services. However, being a veteran means so much more than that! A veteran is a well trained person that fought in the army, marines, or air force. They gladly risked their lives to fight against countries that threatened our freedom. It makes me feel happy and comfortable knowing that there are such brave veterans that have fought for our country.

It is important to my class for everyone to say the pledge of allegiance in the morning at 8:10. It shows respect for our country and for the veterans that fought to preserve our freedom. In America we have the privilege of having many freedoms that people in other countries do not. For example, we have freedom of speech and the freedom to practice whatever religion we want. They are the ones that make our world a better place to live in. Veterans are the ones who risked their lives for our freedom, so I think they should get a lot of respect. People in the army can be very stressed and tired of working but they still keep their heads up high and do their best to win every battle they are faced with.

We are so lucky to have very brave veterans because they worked so hard to serve our country. They fought in many hard battles to protect our country which helped us gain our rights and our freedoms. Veterans are hard working people. People should have respect for what they have done. Maybe if people didn't care about the veterans, they wouldn't care about their job and we probably wouldn't have any freedom.

Hardworking, brave, loyal, and unselfish are adjectives that describe what I feel it means to be a veteran.

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Moriah Perrett
Grade 6
Andover Elementary School

Whether it is in an office, on a battlefield, or at a switchboard, it takes a hero to be a veteran. Bravery and patriotism are characteristics of veterans. Veterans' Day was created to honor all people who have served, fought, and died for our country and our freedom. People who served in the military and gave their services, risked their lives, and lost their lives for us are all veterans: They deserve our thanks.

When people think of veterans, a word that might come to mind is hero. Soldiers leave their homes, families, and friends to fight for our country and the freedom we believe in so strongly. If a brother, cousin, uncle, or friend gets killed during a battle, veterans keep going. They need to wait until a later time to grieve, cry, and mourn their lost companions. Soldiers endure loss, blistering cold, scorching heat, trench foot, and more. That is a Hero.

Being brave does not mean wearing a red cape, moving faster then a speeding bullet, or having massive muscles; it means doing ones duty, even when it is unpleasant or seemingly unbearable. During an attack or a battle, there may be bombs falling, bullets flying, blood, pain, and the death of soldiers and civilians. It takes bravery to live through that. Years later, when veterans are safely home, nightmarish scenes are often still vivid in their minds. The soldier, the veteran, does not complain. When young men and women enlist in the armed forces, they know the dangers they face. They still enlist and are willing to risk their lives for the freedom of their country because they believe. They feel proud. Soldiers leave home, go overseas, fight for our country, and either die proud or come home proud. That is Bravery.

Veterans are extremely patriotic because they risk their lives in battle for America. Patriotism means a great deal to veterans because they have such a strong love for Lady Liberty, the U.S.A. To go through all of the pressure and loss of war for our country shows they have true patriotism and love for America. Veterans go through numerous hardships and sleepless nights for our freedom. To this day, veterans from World War II remember The Battle of Normandy and how much American blood was spilled that day. They are true patriots in America's history.

Veterans are extraordinarily heroic, brave, and patriotic. They fight for our freedom and our country. They live among us proudly. Veterans love America and all that she stands for dearly.

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Loren Madore
Grade 6
Andover Elementary School

In a nursing home, three men sit around me. They are wearing uniforms decorated with badges and pins. They talk to me about the days when they were in the war and protecting our country was their first priority. These men trained for many weeks so that when danger came they would be ready. Each saw things most people would see only in nightmares and were willing to give their lives so we could be free. These men are veterans.

Veterans work very hard so that if they need to go to battle they are prepared. They have to practice for many weeks and train in lots of different situations, on land when they are in the Army and at sea if they are in the Marines. Our veterans are very dedicated and take time away from their families to serve our country. They set good examples to people around the world. When veterans are not on duty, they like to have fun just like any other person. You might see one in the mall or at the movies. Maybe you have a family member who is a veteran.

Some veterans go through the most terrible things that people can experience. They are forced to kill people and even watch friends die. These are pictures most see only in nightmares. Such things make veterans' jobs terrible. Some veterans are nurses or doctors, and they help wounded soldiers. This is a job that is hard to bear.

Some veterans have gone into battle and not come out. One of those veterans was Christopher Hoskins. Christopher was a loving son and brother who died in Iraq along with many other soldiers. I had the privilege to attend his funeral in his hometown of Killingly, Connecticut. Many important people attended, such as government representatives for Connecticut. I even met some of Christopher's elementary school friends. He is very important will be remembered. Christopher paid the ultimate price in defending our country. I live a safe life thanks to his service.

Veterans are extraordinarily important people. They work so hard for all of us. They train hard and, when sent to battle, see disturbing things that might haunt them for the rest of their lives. Many die so that we can live free, unlike many other countries in the world. So next time you see a veteran, think of him or her as someone exceptional. Honor veterans for their service, and thank them for their dedication.

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Lisa Murawski
Grade 7
East Hartford Middle School

Did you know that each and every day soldiers are fighting for the rights of our country? On Veteran's Day, we recognize those who fought for our rights, freedom, and our country. These soldiers put their life on the line for our nation. These veterans have all went through the pain of seeing people die, and knowing at any moment that it might have been them. All veterans' have three things in common: love, honor, and respect for America. All veteran's helped serve our country in one way or another, whether it was making sure all the planes were ready to fly, serving food to the soldiers, or getting out there and fighting. I appreciate these veterans. Some people do not understand how much work they have done for us. Whether these veterans fought in Iraq or in World War II, they all gave up their time for America. I cannot imagine the feeling of being there and fighting, to be so scared and so brave at the same time. Next time you are able to take a glimpse of the American Flag, take a moment and think of all the veterans that served our country. I am proud to be an American.

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Rumanah Kasliwala
Grade 7
East Hartford Middle School

Happy Veterans Day to all!! Today I will be talking about what happened on Veterans Day. In 1918, on the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, in the eleventh month, the world rejoiced and celebrated. After four years of bitter war, an Armistice was signed. The "War to End All Wars" was over. On July first it was Armistice Day and that day a man named Dwight D. Eisenhower changed the day and name to Veterans Day. They honored all the people who served the world, state, country, and the whole Universe. Today the Armies, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marines, and the Navy helped our country. Today will be Veterans Day 2005 and I think they all deserve a thank you and we should tell them what a wonderful job they did in serving their country. Veterans Day is a day that is very important for everyone. People should remember what they did for your life and how they saved your life. Would you risk your life? I don't think so, but they did. Today is a day you should appreciate. Armistice Day officially received its name in American in 1926, through a Congressional resolution. It became a national holiday 12 years later by similar congressional action. Armistice Day is a day to honor everyone and it was originally commemorated by the Germans signing a paper to end World War I.

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Ashley Kinney
Grade 7
Mabelle B. Avery Middle School, Somers

To me, being a veteran means fighting for and protecting the people and the country that they love. It means making a lot of sacrifices, having courage, and knowing people have respect for them. It takes a lot of courage for people to say that they want to be in the military. They do it because they believe in and love our country and want to fight for those reasons. Soldiers know that joining the military means they will have to make sacrifices such as leaving the comfort of their home, leaving their family, and knowing that they have a chance of dieing. They know that their family understands that this is something that they want to do. Those people, the ones that stand up and take the challenge of going to war, know that the people in their country have a lot of respect for them. Without them, there would be no United States of America. It would be taken over by the terrorists and they would want to use their own cultures and their own holidays. The veterans are very brave. They not only fight on our land but all over the world. Veterans have helped us in so many ways for many centuries. That's what being veteran means to me.

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Cassidy Caravella
Grade 6
Mabelle B. Avery Middle School, Somers

BOOM! BANG! "Look out there goes a bomb!" Someone could get hurt! Someone could be killed! But do they stop to say that? No! They stand up for our country whether it means LIFE or DEATH! They may know how to defend themselves, but letting go of their wife/husband, and children? That can be a very difficult thing to do. Yes, it may seem like they were leaving you forever, but with years of experience, there's a good chance that they would come back alive! We love them! We adore them, and we take care of them. When we send canned foods and clothes to them, they are proud to be serving our country. That's why we now have 50 stars on our bright, beautiful flag that stands for freedom. But if they didn't fight in those terrible wars, there might still be starvation, or even wars happening all over again. Just like Martin Luther King Jr. said, "I have a dream," and so do they. We have a dream so powerful that nothing can stop it. Or dream is to make it so there's peace on each, and happiness, and some day, the people who fight for us in the Army and Navy, will make that dream come true. And you know what? They still are. They are so great they deserve a day of their own. It's day to rest and enjoy and a day for us to than them. That's what Veteran's Day is all about. The people who were, and still are fighting for the ones they love, protecting people from terrible deaths, are fighting for the U.S.A.! (The United States of America!), for FREEDOM, and you know what…It's working!

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Brooke Ballard
Grade 6
Mabelle B. Avery Middle School, Somers

To me being a veteran means being willing to give your life to America because you could have died in the war. Giving your life to America shows that you love your family because you were fighting for them. The people that are usually a Veteran are loving, happy, brave and caring. I think that the veterans of America were not only soldiers but also were heroes to everyone. Every morning they probably woke up knowing it might be the day they die for their country. I had a great grandpa that got shot twice in World War II and he has a purple heart. My mom now keeps it in a safe place. I also had another great grandfather who fought in World War II, and a grandfather who all fought in the Korean War. A lot of people would not take the job of being a soldier knowing that they could die at any time. The people that took the job were not selfish because they were fighting for their families and America. The people that fought in the war made it so that we can have freedom today and go where we want to go and do what we want to do.

Freedom is worth fighting for. Well people fight for their families and for the freedom that we have today, not all people have that. People also fight for the country so that all of us can live here and go to school here and so we can have food to eat and clean water to drink. I respect the veterans for what they have done for me. They should all be remembered as heroes.

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Kathleen Ayotte
Grade 6
St. Martha School, Enfield

A veteran is any person that has served in the Armed Forces. These veterans risk their lives to help and protect our country. We should give our respect and honor to these brave people on Veterans Day. Many of these honorable veterans are now dead, but others are alive right now. Many people today have relatives that are veterans. My own uncle is a veteran, and he wears a tattoo showing that he was in the navy. A lot of veterans are very smart people with college degrees. Some travel throughout the whole world both on land and on the seas. They make numerous sacrifices such as leaving a good job, leaving their families, and leaving schools. Veterans may be subject to very bad injuries which may even lead to death. They chance this for us and our country.

During one of the wars my great, great uncle helped out a great hero when he was in danger and needed a ride. I am proud of him. You should also be proud of what the veterans have accomplished. I was so interested that I looked up information about the following veterans: Kevin John Joyce, Thomas Joseph Conners, and Dwain Ursy Mcgriff. I am so glad that the names of veterans are printed on the Wall in Washington, D.C. They deserve our respect and appreciation on Veterans Day.

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Nichole O'Brien
Grade 7
St. Martha School, Enfield

A veteran's life is a good life: traveling the world, getting to see famous places, and being honored on Veterans Day.

Even though being a veteran has its ups, it can also have its downs. While in the Armed Forces, veterans may have to risk their lives to protect our country and our way of life. Risking arm and limb for people they don't know seems really special to me. Awarding medals and citations is the least we can do for them. Families that wait by the phone to see if their family member is OK are always relieved to see them come home and be honored with parades, celebrations, and awards. That is the happiest possibility in the world for them.

Veterans make a great difference in our community. Just knowing I am safe makes a big difference to me. That is why on this Veterans Day we should respect, honor, and thank our veterans for the great work they have done for us.

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Katie Kupchunos
Grade 7
Vernon Center Middle School

Have you ever wondered why you and I are safe, free, and protected? We are safe, free, and protected because Americans step up to the plate and risk their lives for ours. If they die they will die with honor and respect. They have walked out onto war grounds to see us live free, safe, and protected. They are VETERANS!

Anyone who went on war grounds is a veteran. A veteran is a person who has had experience at war, and/or a person who had served in war. Basically someone who is willing to die for their country is a veteran. For example what Nathan Hale said, "I only regret that I have, but one life to lose for my country." He in my eyes is one of our veterans. In a 1993 encyclopedia is read that 87 million veterans fought in war including the 27 million still living. Lon times ago when war was around 18 year old boys and older men were going to war. Some were only 18 year old boys and they had to see the horror and pain of war, watching people die before them. It is very hard to go to war so we owe veterans a lot. Without veterans our future would be different. The past veterans have helped shape our future. In other words veterans are everyone's heroes and we owe them a lot.

Did you know that you didn't have to carry around a gun to be a veteran? They could have been a cook, mailman, mechanic, support personal, driver of a car, computer operator, medics, supply officer, file clerks.

In my opinion you don't even have to be on war grounds to be called a veteran. You could have been someone who worked at a base. For example my uncle Jim is in the air force, but he hasn't' been on war grounds with a gun. He is a mechanic who works on the planes at a base in Texas. In my eyes my uncle Jim or anyone else who is like him is a veteran.

Do you know where we would be without veterans? I believe our country would be broken, who knows we could be ruled by Japan without our veterans. To answer the question, what it means to be a veteran? Being a veteran means stepping up for their country, someone who knows the risk of being at war, but will stand up tall and fight for their country. Someone who is honored all over America and someone who makes us safe, free, and protected. We owe them a lot! Who knows where we would be without them. God Bless America and Thanks to Veterans!

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Stewart Henderson
Grade 7
St. James School, Manchester

Veterans mean a lot to me. I value the fact that someone will risk their life so that we can be free. Many of these veterans died because they stood up for what was right. To protect us from fear, many brave people have lost their lives.

Many people sacrificed their lives for our freedom. 116,708 Americans died in World War I. 417,316 GIs lost their lives in World War II. In the Korean War 33,651 U.S. servicemen died, and 58,168 Americans soldiers died in Vietnam.

Now in Iraq many people are fighting to keep our country safe from terrorism. They are making sure that we are safe. They are enforcing law in a place that needs it.

I understand what it means to be a veteran from hearing the stories about my grandfathers. Both served our country during World War II. They were brave men who enlisted right after the attack on Pearl Harbor because of their sense of duty to America. One of my grandfathers was in the Army and served here in the U.S., while the other served aboard a Coast Guard ship in the South Pacific. I'm proud of their dedication to our country and its principles.

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Tyler Detorie
Grade 6
Canton Intermediate School

Being a U.S. military veteran is such an incredible honor. I should know, my dad flew his A-10 Thunderbolt II in the Iraqi Freedom War. I would love to be a veteran too and have a whole country worth of people look up to me, like I do to my own dad, but its just way too scary for me. Just think about it, having millions of foreign people shoot at you from the ground or from big bombers in the sky. It's scary period, even if you're in an airplane. Being a veteran means that you sacrifice your own life for your country. Not only do the veterans sacrifice their lives for us, but they also sacrifice time from their families, and in my dad's case, his primary job as a commercial pilot. All of the veterans didn't only fight in the war because they were called upon to do it, but because they wanted to help our country and protect us from the Iraqi tyranny. My dad was quoted saying "Primarily, I wanted to serve my country and fly jets" to the Farmington Valley Post. What it means to me to be a veteran is great respect, pride, and honor. All these traits are definitely earned by our U.S. veterans.

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Kristie Nardini
Grade 7
John F. Kennedy Middle School, Plantsville

I would like to tell you about my two favorite veterans. But first of all, what is a veteran? Why are they so special? What did they do?

Well, veterans are people who used to serve in the war. Veterans are so special because they helped make the world the way it is today. Without soldiers, black people would still be slaves! But we won the war mostly because of our soldiers, and are lucky to have veterans that survived. So many people are happy to have their loved ones back home. As an honor to them, we celebrate the 11th day of the 11th month as Veterans Day.

So, who are my two favorite veterans? One of them is my grandfather Daniel Robert Nardini. He was in the navy for World War 2. He signed himself up when he was 18. Daniel was a signal man on the USS Long Island. He visited Japan but did not see any combat. I love my grandfather and he is so special to me.

My other favorite veteran is my grandfather John Wesley Hosmer. He wanted to be in the army when he was 17, but he only weighed 122 lbs, and you have to be 130 lbs. In June of 1944, he graduated from high school. On July 4th he joined the service. He wanted to be a pilot but did not have good enough eyesight. So instead, he became a military policeman and was in combat. He told himself that if he ever came back from the war alive, he would be a minister praising God. Well, this veteran was true to his own word. He returned from the army and went to seminary school. Then my grandfather became a minister in Connecticut. He married my parents and baptized my sister and me. Now my grandfather is in God's house.

Both of my grandfathers are veterans of World War 2. I am so glad that they have a day dedicated to them and all of the other veterans who have made such a difference in this world.

This essay is dedicated to Grandpa Nardini.

In memory of Grandpa Hosmer.

Copyright © 2018, Hartford Courant

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