MONTVILLE, NJ – Montville’s VFW Post 5481 announced its annual Patriot’s Pen essay contest winners. The contest, which is open to sixth through eighth graders, was themed, “Why I Honor the American Flag.” Salvatore Scurti and Jake DaCosta, who both finished eighth grade at Lazar Middle School in June, were the first and second place winners.

Assistant Principal John Piselli introduced VFW essay chair Joe Coll at the school’s annual awards ceremony, speaking of the special relationship the school has with the post, Coll told TAPinto Montville. Lazar students have, for 13 years, worked with the veterans replacing flags at township cemeteries, working in conjunction with the post, for example.

Scurti wrote that he honors the American flag because it represents “strength, justice, hope, unity, freedom and most of all love.

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“The American flag is a symbol of the strength of the many men and women who fight so hard to protect our land. They sacrifice so much to protect everyone here. I honor the flag because it allows everyone I love to feel safe and secure, and live in a place where we are free. Our flag reminds me of the hope we have for tomorrow,” Scurti wrote in part.

DaCosta wrote about his cousins who are serving in the Coast Guard and the Marines and how grateful he is for what they do. He also wrote that saying the Pledge of Allegiance shows respect to everyone who serves for our country.

“The flag also represents how we, as Americans, can work together to help make our country a better place to live in,” he wrote. “When I see the flag, it makes me proud and honored to be an American.”

The essays were required to be between 300 and 400 words; the Patriot’s Pen contest is a national contest and Scurti’s and DaCosta’s essays will continue to the VFW district/regional level, where one first-place winner will be chosen and advance to the state level, then one first-place winner will continue to the national competition. First prize nationally is $5,000.

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