“To me, the flag is a breathtaking symbol of freedom, privilege, sacrifice, and pride,” 18-year-old Graciana Auer proudly proclaimed when asked “What Does the Flag Mean to Me?” “It reminds Americans of all the soldiers who became heroes the minute they made the decision to serve and protect our country. Nothing in our lives is free, especially our freedoms. Every time I see a flag, I am reminded of the millions of people who made the ultimate sacrifice and gave their lives so that we may live a life of privilege. We are privileged to be a part of a nation that is filled with opportunities for everyone no matter their gender, race, religion, sexuality, etc. Most importantly, the American flag represents pride and patriotism. I feel proud to see the red, white, and blue waving in the wind.”
With that essay answer, the Lewiston-Porter High School senior won a $750 scholarship from Veterans of Foreign Wars Downriver Post 7487.
A check presentation took place Monday at the “Circle of Honor” veterans monument in Academy Park.
“I loved the topic and I think, especially in the world today – with everything going on – the flag is such a great symbol of our country,” Auer said. “It was such a fun essay to write. I feel like I encapsulated everything.”
Her grandfather, Tom Dugan, served in the Army and fought in the Vietnam War.
“It's just super special to me,” Auer said. “My grandpa means a lot to me, and so the fact that his sacrifice to our country was able to give me this award – I can't describe it.”
In her essay, Auer wrote, “For as long as I can remember, my grandfather has had an American flag on his porch. Every day precisely at sunset, I watch my grandfather carefully roll up his flag, and bring it inside his house. The process is repeated every morning at sunrise where the flag returns to its resting place. This type of dedication to the flag is hardly seen any more. Seeing a veteran respect the flag as if it were a piece of gold, makes me believe in its symbolism even more.”
Graciana Auer receives a ceremonial check from Veterans of Foreign Wars Downriver Post 7487 members, from left, Bruce Sutherland, Cmdr. Gordon Spencer and Bill Justyk.
The Lewiston resident plans to attend Fredonia State College, where she will major in biology and play Division III soccer. She plans to put the scholarship money toward her education.
“I want to go into the FBI, which is going to be a lot of schooling, but this scholarship will definitely help,” Auer said.
Former VFW Cmdr. Bill Justyk said scholarship funds come from poppy sales.
He also noted the “Circle of Honor” will add 45 names to its commemorative stones ahead of Veterans Day. Those looking to add another name have until July 15 to submit an entry. Visit https://lewistonvfw.org/.
Graciana and her grandpa.