Cadet Emmalee Bright’s essay about service and patriotism advances to national-level competition

Cadet Sgt. Emmalee Bright’s essay, judged initially as the best in Webb City High School’s Cardinal Battalion, has now been selected at the regional brigade level to compete nationally. She could win an six-day, all-expenses paid trip to Washington D.C.

The United States Army Cadet Command and the College Options Foundation sponsor an annual Essay Contest open to all JROTC cadets. This year’s competition essay topic is “Service.” All cadets enrolled in the Webb City Junior ROTC program were asked to write the essay. Through a rigorous selection process, including review and voting by a panel of WCHS communication arts teachers, Bright’s essay was identified as the best. It was then submitted to the 3rd JROTC Brigade to compete with others from nine other states.

Here is her essay:

Service is the Heart of Patriotism


Patriotism is alive in my family. Knowing I have several members in my family tree who were in the military, wartime, or peacetime, incites love and respect for my country and those who serve it. It also inspired me to take notice of the military and the JROTC program. My great-grandpa Charles was drafted into the Army during WWII. My grandpa Robert and all of his brothers and uncles were in different branches of the military. Robert joined the Navy during peacetime when he was 17; his mother had to sign him up because he was underage. Over the years, I have listened to stories about the destroyer USS Henley DD-762 he was aboard during his tour. He obtained his trade as a machinist while in the Navy. My cousin Jason was also in the military. He made the Army his career, retiring after 28 years of service. Having family members in the military, hearing their stories, and learning about their service to our country makes me proud to be an American and made me want to join JROTC. My family’s legacy of patriotism lives on and I have a desire to learn more.

The United States military force consists of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and the most recently added Space Force. These uniformed services of the United States protect our nation from war and violence on land, sea, air, and space to ensure the safety of our citizens. Not only does the military defend and protect its citizens, but also responds to natural disasters, emergencies, and humanitarian issues, aiding affected communities and saving lives. Additionally, they undertake peacekeeping missions and maintain peace in conflict zones. Working tirelessly day and night, the military defends our borders. Through intense training, soldiers learn discipline and responsibility. Soldiers learn reliance on and support for one another while building trust and respect. The military offers educational opportunities and training programs, allowing soldiers to learn valuable skills in various fields and to earn college degrees.

Deployment to different parts of the country and international locations allows soldiers to experience cultural and ethnic diversity, whether serving at home or abroad. The military inspires a sense of national unity, which contributes to building alliances and partnerships with other nations. Additionally, the military invests in research and development to enhance our national security capabilities and readiness with technology and weaponry. The military is always prepared to defend and protect against all threats.

To improve the public’s understanding of the military, the military could consider providing more opportunities for public education through seminars tailored to different settings, such as schools, colleges, community organizations, and online platforms. This will address and correct misconceptions and stereotypes, and improve public understanding of the military. In addition to direct education, veterans help bridge the gap between the military and the public by sharing their personal experiences and accomplishments, leading to a greater appreciation for the service and sacrifices while helping to humanize the military and create a stronger connection with the public. During our school’s Veterans Day assembly, we were honored to have Sergeant Bradford, who is a former cadet and is currently serving in the Marine Corps, as our guest speaker. Seeing her journey from a JROTC cadet to a distinguished member of the military was truly inspiring. She represents the strength and dedication of women in the armed forces. Another consideration would be a series of commercials with our oldest veterans recalling “why they fought for their country,” “what their country means to them,” “why they would enlist today if they were young enough,” or “why they would do it all over again.”

In my opinion, the best way to improve the public’s understanding of the military would be to target a younger audience. Unfortunately, most of this generation does not understand or feel the pride of being an American. For this reason, I would like to choose the JROTC program as my service project toward achieving the Girl Scout Gold Award. Through educational presentations, this project would aim to raise awareness of the JROTC program among middle school and junior high students and inspire them to join by offering them a new sense of purpose, direction, and motivation for their future.

I have heavily considered joining the military; however, I do not think it would be the right fit for me. I am aware of the difficult lifestyle required by the military, and the inherent risk to my safety and well-being that comes with serving in the military. Additionally, enlisting in the military entails adhering to rules that may restrict my freedoms, such as making my own decisions. The time, effort, and commitment required by the military may also conflict with my personal goals and ambitions. I strive to be in law enforcement, and while the military may help me achieve this goal, the high-stress circumstances I would endure could potentially affect my mental and emotional health. Therefore, I have decided not to join the military, but I will always have great respect for the military and for those who serve their country with honor and pride.

In conclusion, the United States military is crucial in safeguarding our nation, responding to emergencies, fostering peace, and promoting national unity. Their unwavering commitment, discipline, and selflessness inspire us all. Engaging with communities through outreach programs and personal interactions is essential. Through education, we can increase understanding of the military to younger generations while providing them with a sense of pride and patriotism. I hope by sharing veterans’ stories, addressing misconceptions, and developing informative programs we can bridge the gap between the military and the public. Fostering respect and participation in our nation’s military is like Adlai Stevenson II once stated, “Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.”