HUGHESTOWN — Brooke Neyman and Andrew Kleinberger are two hardworking students, but they are also gifted writers.
Both Pittston Area Middle School students penned essays entitled “What Does Flag Protection Mean to Me” and gave their insights on what it meant to preserve the American flag and how it represents the country through an annual contest associated with the Dupont AMVETS.
Both students were among five winners each selected in each grade level to have their essays submitted to the Dupont AMVETS, who then review the essays and submit them to the AMVETS Department of Pennsylvania.
Neyman’s essay won third place at the state level while Kleinberger’s won second and they have both been invited to a convention in Gettysburg in June where they will be recognized.
Middle school principal Patrick Bilbow said both students are very hardworking and deserving of their awards.
“Both of these students are excellent students in school,” he said. “They’re both really positive kids and they do the right things in school with all of their studies, not just this essay contest. We’re proud of the both of them.”
Neyman, 14, is in eighth grade and her essay focused on how flag-burning negatively impacts military veterans.
“A lot of my family members are in the military,” she said. “My dad was in the Navy and a lot of his siblings were in the Coast Guard, Army or military in general. I kind of based it on most of my family, like how would they feel if they came home and saw me burning the flag? That’s what they’re fighting for — freedom.”
Kleinberger, 11, is in sixth grade and wrote about preserving the flag by bringing it from the outside on a rainy day, or properly disposing of a torn flag.
He said he held the letter in his hand declaring he won second place without even realizing it.
“(My parents) were the ones who told me I won because I didn’t even look at the mail, I just brought it in,” Kleinberger said. “I didn’t even see the letter with my name on it.”
According Bilbow, the essay contest between the school and Dupont AMVETS has been ongoing for many years, and this is not the first time students from Pittston were recognized at the state level.
Dupont AMVETS Post Commander Bernie McDonald said he feels the essay contest is a way for students to understand more about the American flag’s meaning.
“The contest encourages the kids and teaches them about the vets and why we do the things with the flag,” he said. “We hear from the students’ perspectives rather than have an adult tell them what to write about.”
Bilbow said he hopes Neyman’s and Kleinberger’s success influences other students to participate in the contest next year.
He also hopes the contest will be a way for students to get a better understanding of the Dupont AMVETS and all military veterans.
“There are well over 1,000 students in our middle school here and if we could get a great percentage of those students to understand who the AMVETS are, awareness of their contributions and what they’ve done for our country, (that’s) the bigger picture for me,” he said. “It’s nice to have the state winners, but our biggest goal is that we want our students to recognize our veterans and all they’ve done for them.”
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher