Veterans of Foreign WarsVFW Dode Morris Post 1760
Mesa, AZ

Patriot’s Pen

2020-21 Patriot’s Pen Theme:

What is Patriotism to Me?

Student Entry Deadline: October 31, 2020
Patriotic Essay Writing Contest Grand Prize: $5,000 Award

VFW Patriot's PenPost 1760 is an active sponsor for the Patriot’s Pen annual competition. Conducted nationwide, this VFW sponsored youth essay competition gives students an opportunity to write essays expressing their views on democracy with the prospect of winning money for college.

Each year more than 132,000 students in grades 6-8 enter the VFW’s Patriot’s Pen youth essay contest. The national first-place winner wins $5,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. The first-place winner from each state competes for national awards totaling $55,000, with each first-place state winner receiving a minimum of $500 at the national level.

The essay contest encourages young minds to examine America’s history, along with their own experiences in modern American society, by drafting a 300- to 400-word essay, expressing their views based on a patriotic theme chosen by the VFW Commander-in-Chief.


Conducted nationwide, this VFW-sponsored youth essay competition gives students an opportunity to write essays expressing their views on an annual patriotic theme. We invite you to join the more than 120,000 students who participated last year in this contest. The national winners will receive at least $500. The first-place national award is currently $5,000 plus an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., for the winner and a parent or guardian. The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) has again approved this contest for its National Advisory List of Contests and Activities.

Big National Prizes

National awards total: $55,000
Prizes include the various amounts listed below:
1st: $5,000 7th: $1,750
2nd:$4,000 8-10th: $1,500
3rd: $3,500 11-12th: $1,250
4th: $2,750 13-23th: $1,000
5th: $2,500 24-25th: $750
6th: $2,000 26-53th: $500
The Internal Revenue Service requires that any recipient that receives more than a $599 award should receive a Form 1099 identifying the proceeds as taxable.

Post 1760 Winning Prize: $150

How does the Patriot’s Pen contest work?

All entries begin at the Post level. The only exception is where schools/classes/ youth groups have large numbers of students and wish to conduct their own competition, submitting one winner for each 15 students to the local VFW Post competition. Individual students may submit their entry directly to the Post. This participating Post should be within your local area and within your U.S. state of residence. The contest consists of four levels. The first level (entry) is sponsored by local VFW Posts. Post winners advance, one for every 15 entries, to the VFW District (regional) level where the one first-place winner is advanced to the VFW Department (state) level. The one first-place winner at the Department level is then advanced into the VFW national competition. The winner from each Department (state) then competes for the national prizes.

Who can enter?

Patriot’s Pen is open to 6th-, 7th- and 8th-grade students enrolled by the Oct. 31 deadline in public, private or parochial schools in the U.S., its territories or its possessions. Home-schooled students also are eligible. Although U. S. citizenship is not required, students must be lawful U. S. permanent residents or have applied for permanent residence (the application which has not been denied) and intends to become a U.S. citizen at the earliest opportunity allowed by law. Dependents of U.S. military or civilian personnel in overseas schools can participate too. (Foreign exchange students and former winners that placed in the National contest are excluded from the contest.)

How do I get started?

  • Download the entry form here: 2020-21 Patriots Pen Student Entry Form and Brochure.
  • Ask a teacher or youth group/club adult leader to supervise the Patriot’s Pen writing competition.
  • Contact a local VFW Post within your local area within your state and indicate your interest in participating.
  • Establish a contact person who is a member of that VFW Post or its Auxiliary.
  • Make sure that your essay is submitted to the VFW Post before the contest deadline of Oct. 31, 2020. You can submit your essay and entry form electronically (by email) upon the Post’s approval. Entries sent to VFW National will be returned.

How am I judged?

You will be judged on how well you understand, develop and present the theme. A positive approach is recommended to express your viewpoint.

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.

What is the theme?

VFW’s Commander-in-Chief annually chooses the year’s theme. The 2020-21 theme is, What is Patriotism to Me?

What are the rules?

  • Essay length: 300-400 typewritten words. (+ or – 5 words max).
  • You must write your own essay.
  • All essays should be typed in English with no color or graphics and cannot be less than 300 words or greater than 400 words in length. (Essays under or over these word amounts will be eliminated.) Every word is counted regardless of length. The essay title (theme) or added footnotes do not contribute to the word count. At any time during the contest additional participant personal information (i.e. SSN, photo, etc.) could be requested by the VFW.

In no way may contestants identify themselves within their essay (including, but not limited to, your name, school, city, state, race or national origin.) Do not put your name on your essay. The entry form is your essay’s cover sheet. Secure the Official Student Entry Form with a staple or other fastener on top of your essay. Contestants are allowed to enter only once each year if otherwise eligible (one Post competition). Contestants found in violation of this rule will face elimination from the competition and will be required to return any and all prize money awarded or received.

The essay must be a contestant’s original work and a product of the contestant’s own thinking. The approach to the Patriot’s Pen theme should be positive and clearly focused. Poetry is not acceptable. Quotations may be used sparingly if plainly identified wherever used. A contestant’s teacher, counselor or parent may check the essay for punctuation, grammar and/or spelling, but the content must remain the contestant’s. Contestants will be judged on the basis of their essay alone and are not required to present the essay orally. All essays become the property of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The VFW retains non-exclusive rights to use your essay and likeness in the promotion and execution of the organization’s programs and activities.

Patriot’s Pen Deadline information

To qualify, all entries must be submitted to VFW Post 1760 (or a sponsoring local VFW Post) by midnight October 31, 2020. Entries can be hand delivered or postal mail sent.

For more details on the competition you can contact our office or refer to the VFW National website.

About the 2019-20 winner …

Ruby Howe, a seventh grade student from Rochester Hills, Michigan, was named the 2019-20 Patriot’s Pen first place winner. Her essay on the theme, “What Makes America Great,” won her a $5,000 award. Ruby was sponsored by VFW Post 334 in Lake Orion, Michigan.

Watch as Ruby delivered her winning essay, or see the complete list of 2020 national winners.

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Post 1760