Makenna Wiljanen, 13, daughter of Matt and Darlene Wiljanen of Brighton won the top honor in a Brighton Area Schools contest for her essay on “Laying of the Wreaths.”
She earned the honor of laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia later this month. She is an eighth grade student and member of the State Championship Hockey Team for girls 14 and under.
Makenna also is the great niece and godchild of Jackie Garner of Van Buren Township. Garner retired last year from her longtime position as Independent Office Manager.
The essays were written with number identification only and Makenna’s name was determined after the top essay was chosen. Here is her winning essay.
Laying of the Wreaths
As young Americans, at an early age, we are exposed to a world of super villains and heroes. Heroes who are protecting children from the villains and are constantly saving a made up city, day after day. Where we don’t recognize the real heroes, the ones who save real citizens of a real city, day after day. Millions have lost their lives, and yet some names went unknown. They never had a catchphrase or a jingle whenever they did something heroic. Instead, they are rewarded with the pride and the respect of our country.
At the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, located in Arlington Cemetery, the tomb guards have the precise task of watching over the tomb 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As a guard they take 21 steps across the tomb which is in reference to the 21 gun salute, the highest honor you can receive as an American soldier. To many it may be a tourist attraction, however, the step by step action of the tomb guards and the silent gatherings of the crowds represent much, much more. Three bodies lay unknown from three wars. As written on the side of the tomb it reads, “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.” Peace, Victory, and Valor also written on the side of the sarcophagus explain the unknown soldiers’ way of life. This is how they faced each day. The way they lived with boldness, determination, and triumph is what makes them real heroes.
“For love of county they accepted death,” a profound quote made by James A. Garfield describing the actions of the unknown soldiers. As an American citizen, it would be an absolute honor to lay a wreath to show the love for my country. I was born and raised in the amazing United States of America and I owe all of my freedom to those who fought and are still fighting at home, overseas, or anywhere on the planet earth. To have the opportunity to represent my country, my state, my city, my schools, to be chosen to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier would let me show my respect for those who rest unknown.
Honor is what one feels when they are thought of with high respect, fairness, and integrity. Honor is what you feel when the American National Anthem plays at a professional baseball game, and everyone rises and removes their caps. Honor is what all American students feel when we stand every day and recite our nation’s Pledge of Allegiance. When we all come together as one. We gather together in America during the good times and the bad. Our worst days to our best, we are bound together as one. Honor is what I feel every day breathing fresh American air, living free. I would truly be blessed to have this wonderful opportunity to show my gratitude and love of my home. America, the great.