MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A day after we honored the memory of our fallen veterans, students are honoring the veterans in their lives.

Sen. Al Franken announced the winners of his third Annual Poetry Contest for Minnesota Students — with winners in elementary, middle school and high school age groups.

The topic was “Celebrating The Veteran In My Life,” and the winning poems were full of pride.

“A little boy turned 2 the day Pearl Harbor went boom,” said fifth grader Riley Menze, reading from her winning poem.

Her inspiration was her grandpa, who served as an army cook, and her only obstacle was the 250-word limit.

“It’s more short and sweet and things like that,” she said, “and you have to figure out how to put words together in this teeny little thing.”

Her father Dan said they’re very proud of her.

“It’s hard to put into words,” he said. “It’s just kind of a surprise.”

The senator’s poetry contest was inspired by his wife, and her work with military families, giving kids a different way to express their feelings.

“It really is helpful for us to understand what the kids are feeling,” he said.

Eighth grader Chineng Vang of Elk River also wrote about his grandpa, who served with U.S. troops in Southeast Asia.

“Well, my grandpa is a big inspiration in life,” he said. “Fighting with the U.S. allowed them to come to the U.S. to be refugees here, to find refuge.”

His poem was meant to be read backwards or forwards, making the last lines: “I can always know you’ll be there for me, like you did for grandma, be the best vet you can be.”

Just as powerful as the first: “You are the best veteran I know. Fifty years from now I’ll still believe that you are the greatest.”

The top three poems in each of the three age groups will all be on display in Sen. Franken’s offices for the next year.


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