VFW believes strongly in good citizenship and fostering patriotism. That’s why we encourage youthful minds to examine our nation’s history and their own experiences in modern American society through our Patriot’s Pen youth essay-writing contest.

Annually, more than 100,000 students from grades 6-8 (nationwide) enter. One first-place winner from each state competes to win one of 46 national awards totaling $46,000. The national first-place winner wins $5,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., in March.

Students draft a 300-400 word essay, expressing their views based on an — always patriotic — annual theme chosen by the VFW Commander-in-Chief.

The Patriot’s Pen program is open to students in grades 6-8 (on the Nov. 1 deadline), who are enrolled in a public, private or parochial high school or home study program in the United States and its territories.

The deadline for submissions for the 2013-2014 program is November 1, 2013. Download the entry form for 2013-2014 here

The theme for 2013-2014 is: “What Patriotism Means to Me”

Students can ask a teacher or youth group leader to supervise their progress in the competition. Then students can contact a local participating VFW Post and established a contact person who is a member of that Post or its Ladies Auxiliary.

Next, it is time to start drafting considering the 2013-2014 theme, “What Patriotism Means to Me.” Essays must be no less than 300 words and cannot exceed 400 words and should be submitted to the Post, along with the completed Patriot’s Pen entry form no later than the November 1 deadline.

Knowledge of the theme is worth 30 points: You must show a thorough knowledge of the theme in your work. Demonstrate you have researched the issue extensively.

Theme development is worth 35 points: Answer all relevant facts about the theme such as the who, what, where, when and why. Relate the theme to your own experiences.

Clarity of ideas is worth 35 points: Write your essay in an easy-to-understand format. Leave your reader with a clear understanding of your explanation of the theme.