newsvirginia war memorial announces winners of veterans day essay contest

Virginia War Memorial announces winners of Veterans Day essay contest


Virginia War MemorialA middle-schooler from Fairfax and a high school sophomore from Patrick County were the first-place winners in the Virginia War Memorial’s 2021 Veterans Day Student Essay Contest.

The winners were announced at the 65th Annual Commonwealth’s Veterans Day Ceremony held Nov. 11 at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond and livestreamed on social media.

The winner in the middle school category was Joseph Moreno, a sixth-grader at The Basilica School of St. Mary in Fairfax. His teacher is Melissa Manaker.

The winner in the high school category was Maria Turner, a 10th-grader at Patrick County High School in Stuart. Michele Ardner is her teacher.

The annual contest was open to middle and high school age students throughout Virginia enrolled in public or private schools or homeschooled. The essay topic for the 2021 competition was “An American Who Served in the Military following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 Who Inspires Me.”

The contest winners, Joseph Moreno and Maria Turner, traveled to Richmond to read aloud their essays on stage as part of the Commonwealth’s Veterans Day Ceremony.  Each winner received a $250 gift card and each of their teachers received a $100 gift card to purchase classroom supplies. The gift cards were funded by donations to the nonprofit Virginia War Memorial Foundation.

Joseph and Maria were personally congratulated by U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, First Lady Pamela Northam, and Virginia Acting Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Kathleen Jabs, who attended the ceremony.

“We are very proud of Joseph and Maria, our 2021 Veterans Day Student Essay Contest essay winners and all of the students from throughout the Commonwealth that participated this year,” said Dr. Clay Mountcastle, Virginia War Memorial Director. “Education and preserving history for future generations are tenets of our important mission here at the Virginia War Memorial.  These students demonstrate with their inspiring words, just how important that mission can be.”

More than 80 Virginia students submitted entries to the contest. The winning essays are posted online on the Virginia War Memorial Foundation website:



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