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Patriots’ Pen

Patriots’ Pen: How can I be a good American? by Kelsey Nedland

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Local winners have been announced in the 2021 VFW Patriots’ Pen Essay Contest sponsored by Westby Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8021. The theme of this year’s competition was “How can I be a good American?”

The contest was open to all students in Grades 6 through 8 including home-schooled students. This is a national contest, in which the first-place national winner receives $5,000. There are 45 other national prizes ranging from $500 to $4,000. Approximately 40 eighth-grade students competed with Post 8021; another group competed with Coon Creek Post 10532.

The fourth-place winner in the Westby post competition was Kelsey Nedland, daughter of David and Tiffany Nedland of La Farge. Kelsey received $10 for her winning essay.

How can I be a good American?

Having a clean America is the best way to keep our country happy. Consumers can be very wasteful, yearly America accumulates 1.3 billion tons of solid waste and it is expected to reach 2.2 billion by the year 2025 (1). This can harm our environment very badly. If we all work together and help one another we can make our environment an overall better place for all people and wildlife.

With the number of species declining it is important to clean up our country, so that they can have a safe place to live. Something everyone can do to make a safer environment for animals is to rinse out trash before throwing it away, put lids on containers and bottles before throwing them away, and cut the plastic that goes around cans in half (2). All of these can help in many different ways. Firstly, by rinsing out bottles or containers it can lower the odor of what was inside. Putting lids on bottles can also help stop attracting animals to the trash. Some American companies are trying to stop the waste of plastic by changing the way they make their packaging or items.

Companies are working to stop the waste of plastic by changing the type of materials they use to package or make their products. For example, Coca-Cola is working to try and prevent the use of plastic in their company. Their plan to stop the waste of plastic was launched in 2018 and the goal is to have 50% of their packaging recycled material by 2030. As Americans we need to help clean up our country, so it can be a clean place for many generations to come.

By cleaning up our country there will be a number of visible benefits. Those benefits can impact our country for many decades to come. Some examples are clean air, more resources, and less hazards (3). With clean air there will definitely be less hazards of getting a sickness. A disease you can get from air pollution is lung cancer. More resources could be an example of water pollution. Water pollution can cause fish and other water creatures to get sick or die.

Our country is a very unsanitary place. If we all work together and clean up even just a couple times a month. Then, we can have a clean country for everyone to live in.

Footnotes: (1) “Companies Are Working with Consumers to Reduce Waste.” Harvard Business Review, 24 Apr. 2017, (2) “Reduce, Reuse, RECYCLE: Alternatives for Waste Management.” NMSU, (3) “The Benefits of a Clean Environment—Cleaningplanetearth.” Google Sites,


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