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Creston sixth-grader wins essay competition

Paul Johnston, 13, of Creston writes the winning “What the Flag Means to Me” essay among 1,400 entries.

Published: Tuesday, June 17, 2014 11:31 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, June 18, 2014 2:13 p.m. CDT

The state winner of this year’s “What the Flag Means to Me” essay contest hails from Creston.

Paul Johnston, 13, wrote the first-place essay selected among 1,400 entries judged by Iowa Elks Association in April. Johnston is the son of Suzanne and Steve Johnston of Creston.

How did he get to the state competition?

Both Johnston and Jordyn Brown, 12, formerly of Lenox, won the local essay competition that included sixth-graders from Creston and Lenox. They then advanced to a district competition that included essay writers from nine lodges in southwest Iowa.

At districts, Johnston received first place, $60 and advanced to the state competition where he won first place and $70. This essay competition was coordinated by the Iowa Elks Association.

Both Johnston and Brown were honored during a Flag Day ceremony held at Creston Elks Lodge #605 Saturday evening. (See photo, right).

Flag Day is celebrated each year to commemorate the adoption of the flag of the United States — which happened on June 14, 1777, by resolution from the Second Continental Congress. The day also promotes patriotism, respect for the flag and love of country.

See Johnston’s first-place essay, below.


Last Spring I went to Washington D.C. with my dad and my cousin. Standing next to our nation's capitol, I saw the American Flag flying high and proud.

At that moment, I realized much more of what the flag really means. The flag symbolizes sacrifice, freedom, and victory. When the flag was first created, we were fighting for our freedom to start a new path of liberty. The flag has continued to represent our countries liberties through many generations.

I believe, people of my generations are quickly losing an appreciation for the true meaning of the flag. It is crucial for us to remember that American soldiers have fought and died to protect our flag and it should always remain sacred to our nation.

My generation needs to consider what it (would) have been like to witness friends and fellow soldiers dying to raise the flag at Iwo Jima. Or, imagine, being a 18 year old, fresh out of high school ready to start adulthood when receiving a draft notice in the mail. These are memories that should stay alive from generation to generation.

It is important to preserve the precious memories that many Americans have experienced by honoring the flag. I believe that school age students should honor the flag daily by saying the Pledge of Allegiance.

I now realize when I was in elementary school we didn't say the Pledge of Allegiance regularly, now that I am in middle school, it is the first time in my school career that we say the pledge regularly. Children should be taught at a young age that the flag is so much more than the symbol of our country.

They should know that we honor the flag at sporting events and parades because it represents bloodshed, sacrifice and perseverance to have the freedom we have today.

As you see, the American Flag is the heartbeat of our great Nation.

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