Area students submitted more than 200 essays and posters honoring veterans for this year’s All Veterans Tribute Student Essay and Poster contest. Winners were announced Sunday during ceremony at Emporia Middle School.

“The contest gives students an opportunity to learn about the reason behind Veterans Day and to appreciate the freedoms we enjoy in the United States due to the sacrifices men and women in the military have made since our country began,” said Nancy Horst, one of the event organizers.

This year’s theme was “A Veteran’s Story,” allowing students to interview veterans, their families or research someone who was a veteran.

The contest is open to open to students in grades 5-12 in Lyon, Chase, Coffey, Greenwood, Morris, Osage and Wabaunsee counties as well as homeschooled students from those counties. Students from seven area schools participated in the contest this year: Emporia Middle School, Hamilton High School, Hartford High School, Olpe Schools, Walnut Elementary, Reading Elementary and Timmerman Elementary. A panel consisting of veterans, retired educators and business professionals judged the entries in late October.

First, second and third place was awarded in each grade category, along with cash prizes and certificates.The first place essay writers and the first place poster designers read their essays and explained their posters during the ceremony.

This year, the cash prizes were provided by Disabled American Veterans, Flint Hills Area Vietnam Veterans, Flint Hills Optimist Club and VFW Post 7957.

Brad Kempf, assistant principal at Emporia Middle School and a veteran, gave a brief speech about how he came to realize that, in becoming first a history teacher then an administrator, he is able to educate students about the freedoms we have and the cost of obtaining them.

“Talking to them about my military service gives students an idea what’s important to us as Americans, and what people sacrifice to keep those freedoms,” Kempf told the audience.

Olivia Pimpl, Olpe, won the sixth grade essay category with her entry about being the child of an active duty officer. Pimpl’s father has been deployed twice in her young life, once to Kosovo and once to Afghanistan. Her essay recalled her feelings when he left for Afghanistan four years ago.

“I was scared, but I knew that he was doing something brave for our country,” Pimpl wrote. She also wrote about how hard it was at home without him, and gave her mother credit for being both mother and father to Pimpl and her siblings.

Aubrey Hammond, Olpe, won the eigth grade essay category with her entry about her grandfather, Dennis. He was deployed overseas, primarily in Asia, for many years. It was while he was deployed to Japan that he met “the love of my life,” Hammond’s grandmother.

“He’s a very good person,” she said. “He deserves recognition for his service.” Hammond is considering donating a portion of her prize money to a veterans fund.

Calli Daniels of Hamilton won the high school essay category with her entry about Joey Paulk. Paulk was serving in Afghanistan when his Humvee was hit by three anti-tank mines, flipping it over and igniting the fuel tank. He suffered severe burns to his body and face, smoke inhalation, paralysis of his vocal cords and complete amputation of all 10 fingers. After dozens of surgeries, he is now an active spokesman for wounded warriors in southern California.

Daniels said she chose to highlight Paulk because he shows real bravery and teaches us that everyone deserves respect, no matter what they look like.

“Even though someone looks different, they should be treated well,” Daniels said. “He fought for our freedom and deserves our respect.”

Full list of winners:

1st Place Essays

5th grade: Haylie Wood, Timmerman

6th grade: Olivia Pimpl, Olpe

7th grade: Destinee Washburn, Olpe

8th grade: Aubrey Hammond, Olpe

High School: Calli Daniels, Hamilton

1st Place Posters

5th grade: Karsyn Young, Walnut

6th grade: Triton Ybarra, Olpe

7th grade: Max Blaufuss, Olpe

8th grade: Wylie Redeker, Olpe

High School: Bailey Kurzen, Hartford

2nd Place Essays

5th grade: Taylor Pringle, Reading

6th grade: Jo Samuels, Olpe

7th grade: Maya Bishop, Olpe

8th grade: Ethan Baker, Olpe

High School: Katherine MacGregor, Olpe

2nd Place Posters

5th grade: Ava Clark, Olpe

6th grade: Jo Samuels, Olpe

7th grade: Treyson True, Olpe

8th grade: Joel Dieker, Olpe

High School: Dale Kisner, Hartford

3rd Place Essays

5th grade: Grace Markowitz, Olpe

6th grade: Jayden Birk, Emporia

7th grade: Marley Heins, Olpe

8th grade: Noah Fell, Olpe

High School: Jarett Rayburn, Hamilton

3rd Place Posters

5th grade: Elizabeth Freund, Hamilton

6th grade: Baylee Richard, Olpe

7th grade: Camille Steffes, Olpe

8th grade: Mallory Kueser, Olpe

High School: Sarah Rodak, Hartford

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