The Ladies Auxiliary to R.W. Fritzinger VFW Post 7215, Walnutport, sponsors the Patriot's Pen essays each year. On March 12 the 2011 awards were presented with winners and their families treated to dinner.

Commander Bruce Jones welcomed everyone to the event, saying "These young people are our future."

Sue Bortz, auxiliary chaplain, asked God to "continue His blessings on our families and to bless the dependents of our departed comrades."

The theme for this year's essays was "Does Patriotism Still Matter?" Karen Bandzi, auxiliary president, introduced the winners who read their essays.

Fifth place, Katrina Kern, daughter of George and Diane Kern of Northampton, said in her essay that millions of Americans came together after 9/11. Flags were flying for a time, but patriotism still matters. Even though the country faces tough times we can't lose faith.

"We have to support the families of those who served," said Katrina. "My father was hurt and walks with a cane. Isn't it sad that some countries love our country more than we do?"

Her award was a certificate and backpack plus a $50 savings bond. Each winner received the first two with a $50 savings bond for fourth place, $75 for third, $100 for second place and $200 for first place.

The fourth place winner was Megan Walter. Her parents are Gregg and Stacy Walter of Northampton.

She said patriotism is more important than ever. The military risks its life to protect us. We may be patriotic at a baseball game by participating in the "Star Spangled Banner." Voting is another show of patriotism, according to Megan.

Elizabeth Stonewall of Northampton was in third place. She also placed fourth in the District 20 contest which was held at Pocono Farms.

She said after the Twin Towers fell, everyone was patriotic but it soon got back to normal as though no one cared. The Vietnam soldiers came home and things were thrown at them but in another country the same man may have been appreciated.

"Patriotism takes courage," said Elizabeth.

In second place was Wyatt Davidson, son of Alan and Heather Davidson of Danielsville. He said that of course patriotism matters. The United States of America is the best country with lots of rights. A relative came back from Korea with seven medals including two purple hearts.

"Now my family puts seven flags out instead of one. I ask my grandfather about Vietnam but he starts to cry," Wyatt concluded with the hope that patriotism matters for you as it does for him.

Joelle Perelli thanked the Veterans of Foreign Wars and her teachers for the opportunity to enter the contest.

The daughter of Joseph and Kathy Perelli of Bath said there are people who are willing to put their lives in danger to help others. She thinks people take for granted the rights we have.

"On July 4 we stop and think how great our country is. I strongly believe patriotism still matters," said Joelle.

Joelle placed third in the District 20 contest.

Bandzi said the students worked hard at what they did.

Mark Getz, the VFW state quartermaster, said he had just visited Iraq and thanked everyone who participated in the essay contest. He said the Voice of Democracy contest is available for ninth, 10th and 11th grade students.

"You (the winners) do a great job promoting the idea of how the United States was formed and still is," Getz said.

Liz Grammes, Northampton Area Middle School assistant principal, said she was proud of every one of the students who participated. Teacher Pattie Jones helps get the students involved in writing the essays. Both attended the dinner.

Tim Grammes recently returned home from Afghanistan. He said he wasn't expecting recognition. He was a hospital corpsman in the Navy.

In January of last year he was in the Marjah fight by the coalition forces.

"It's great to come to an area like this. I came back and everyone is supportive. It makes me solidify my beliefs that the last five years were worth it," said Grammes.

Bandzi said the auxiliary will pay Grammes' membership in the VFW for the next three years.

She said the subject for next year's Patriot's Pen contest will be "Are you proud of your country 2012?"