Archive for Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Local student writes essay about effects of Frantz’s death

January 18, 2006

Editor's note: The following essay, written by Tonganoxie High School junior Jake Heskett, took first place in the local Veterans of Foreign Wars essay contest and second place in the VFW District No. 1 essay competition. Jake is the son of Kent and Lori Heskett and Dee Collins, all of Tonganoxie.

How I Demonstrate My Freedom

It's Wednesday, October 18. We finished our team stretches, came together in a massive huddle and broke it off, officially starting practice. As we started our stampede to get to our offensive position, the head coach stopped us and made us take a knee. He began to tell us, like he always does, "Remember, to play every play like it's your last because you never know when it is your last." He then told us of a fallen soldier who was killed in combat the day before; he had played for our team a few years ago. This was the reason for the "play every play like it's your last" speech.

We went on with our practice just like any other day, not realizing how much of an impact this fallen soldier would have on our small town. By the time practice was over with, the story of our fallen soldier was all over the news stations. The entire town knew of his death in a matter of hours.

On Thursday it was the talk of the day. It wasn't so much that he had been killed, it was how. How he had been killed was the biggest issue amongst my friends. Thus bringing out the racial names of that area of the world: camel-jockey this and towel-head that.

All of this, though, was just a build up of events to that Friday's football game.

There was talk of anti-war and anti-gay protesters being at the game; which unnerved the entire town. It is their right to be there, but it is not right to do it at a game where a fallen soldier is to be honored. They came and had their protest, but thanks to a group of veteran motorcyclists who arrived and parked next to them, revving their loud engines, all of the protesters' nonsense was drowned out.

The team entered the locker room one last time before halftime to get ready for the game. As we sat there quietly, thinking of the game, the fallen soldier's widow passed through our locker room. As she left she told us with tears in her eyes, "Win this one for Lucas, guys." With one answer the team responded, "Yes ma'am."

We walked slowly out onto the field, through a tunnel of old players and friends of the fallen soldier, with our hats under our right arm. We aligned on the field ready for the game, but it was senior night so we went through the motions of that. But then a special service was provided for our fallen soldier. His old number, number 69, was to be retired that night in honor of his service not only in the military, but to our school, our town, and as a great human being.

The stadium was now flooded with a sea of red and white as the fans filled the stands. Some even neglected the stands and just stood alongside the fence and on the sidewalk. But it didn't matter because everyone stood when the ceremony began. His jersey, which was held by his friends and family behind us players, was framed and ready to be hung in its respected place, overlooking the locker room.

The band played "America the Beautiful," and some people began to tear up. Then they played the "Star-Spangled Banner;" more people began to tear up. Then the ceremony began. The color guard was on the track facing the stands holding the flags high. The announcer spoke proudly. Then the first moment of silence, which people cried; after, came more speaking by the announcer, followed by another moment of silence dedicated to the fallen soldier, almost everyone cried. But the moment that made almost the entire stadium cry was when they played "God Bless the USA," by Lee Greenwood, through the loudspeakers.

Everything that happened that night is something that cannot be done in some countries. But here in America, it can because of the men and women who have fought for our freedoms.

I wrote three different papers trying to figure out how I really demonstrate my freedom. I thought for days how do I demonstrate my freedom. But it took a tragedy for me to figure it all out. I demonstrate my freedom by honoring and shedding a tear for our fallen soldiers; paying homage to them, for their efforts to defend our freedoms back at home. I also honor those who have served and were lucky enough to make it back home with respect. They fought the same battle, all with the exception that they were luckier to have made it home. I decided that this was the best way in which I demonstrate my freedom, honoring those who have given it to me. There would be nothing for me to write if it had not been for those who have fought to defend it.

I could have written about anything that takes place in my life any given day. But the most important thing I can do with my freedom is to remember those who have given it to me. Without these brave human beings, America would not be America -- the land of the free and the home of the brave. We could be British having to bow down to a monarch; but no, we have fought and lost many brave men and women in providing, protecting and giving our freedoms. I honor and respect everyone who has served in the armed forces to protect our freedoms. That is how I demonstrate my freedom.

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