Rex Burkman stands with his mother Kristin Burkman in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Rex Burkman Essay
For the whole of my life, I have felt a great pride and loyalty to my country. I think of the majestic, pine-draped mountains of Oregon, the swaying, sun-soaked palms of Florida, and the effulgent lights of New York, shining the ideals of hope and democracy throughout the world. I think of its valiant people, people who endangered their lives to fight the greatest empire on Earth to defend papers that made a jeopardous and far-flung statement that the citizens of a country should rule themselves.
After participating in the spring musical, 1776, I became very interested in gaining a deeper understanding of our founding principles and ideals of our great nation. Over the summer, I read two encyclopedias on American history and two books on the American presidents. My studies taught me of the blood, sweat, treasure, and tears it took to build the greatest nation in the history of the world. Of the thousands of empires, dictatorships, states, republics, and monarchies that have appeared on this planet, none have ever promoted the ideas of universal justice, unrestrained opportunity, and idealistic freedom as this country has. Yet, these values are constantly being challenged by oppressive dictatorships, corrupt regimes, and inhuman principles conveyed by nations on the barbaric path of tyranny. Even some people in our own nation can threaten these ideals. These oppressive states want nothing else than to destroy the ideologies of hope and liberty that the United States bestows. It is for this reason that young men and women of this country choose to serve to keep this garden of truth and justice safe from the evils that haunt this world. However, with the cruel inventions of destruction and desolation that man has cursed upon himself, we find that some soldiers die and leave only their names to God. It is this greatest sacrifice that is honored at Arlington Cemetery at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
My respect and understanding of the freedom and opportunity that we are privileged with on the soil of this country are the reasons I would deem participation in the Wreath Laying Ceremony such an incredible honor. I have read countless books on the history and principles of this nation, learned to play a variety of patriotic hymns on the piano, and have studied the ideas and processes that run this country. I have been greatly inspired by my grandfather who served in the army, my great grandfather who served on a warship in the Philippines during World War II, and a great uncle who served in the Korean War. With historical studies and great sources for what it takes to build a nation like this, I have garnered the highest regard for the brave men and women who protect the ideas that promote fraternity and hope. All of this spurs from people with dreams of a state that shines equality, justice, fairness, reasonableness, challenges, and freedom. These are the traits that make me proud to be an American. It is these ideas that would make it such a privilege and an honor for me to pay tribute to the people who left their homes and everything they knew to fight for freedom and justice against tyranny and discrimination, and lost not only their lives while doing it, but also their names.
Steve Harvey Guest Columnist
SHERIDAN - Sometimes there is a story that needs to be told and this is one of those times.
This is the story of a young man with a Sheridan connection via his mother but he does not live here or attend the local school. His name is Rex Burkman and his mother is Kristin Burkman. Many Sheridan residents will remember Kristin because she grew up here and graduated from Sheridan. Her parents are Dorothy and Craig Bishop and lots of Sheridan residents know the Bishop's very well as they are life-long Sheridanites. But this is a story about Rex, not his mother or his grandparents.
The story all begins when a couple of weeks ago Grandmother Dorothy, affectionately known as "Gram", came to work here at the library one day with a copy of an essay Rex had written as part of a contest at his school to honor those who had given their lives in defense of their country.
After all, Veterans Day is coming up shortly. You know Veterans Day, right? It's the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. World War I. Armistice Day. Rex entered an essay contest about Veterans Day at his school, and he WON!! Actually, he was one of four who actually had their essays picked to receive the prize. The prize was an opportunity to place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. And that is exactly what Rex and his three other classmates did just last week on a class trip to Washington, D.C.
This is only half of my story. The other half is Rex's story told through his essay - as fine a piece of writing as I have had the honor to read in a long time. Please take a few moments to read Rex's essay and realize that these words were crafted by a young man of 13 years. I just thought this was an incredible document written by someone of his age and maturity and I think you will agree.
I hope on Veterans Day that you will pause at 11 a.m. and remember those who gave their lives, in all wars, for the sake of this great nation. For the past several years I have been privileged to be a part of the Veterans Day ceremony at Hamilton Heights School Corporation. My granddaughter goes to school there and Grandpa gets invited to participate. They do a great job of honoring all us old Vets and I appreciate it very much. And I know Abigail is very, very proud of her Grandpa Martin, and her Grandpa Wilhoite, too, standing up there.
But Rex, by way of his essay, honors all of us also and I applaud and very much appreciate his special contribution on this 99th anniversary to the end of the War to End All Wars. And getting to place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier . . . well, that is just frosting on the cake.
So to my friend Rex Burkman, age 13, who wrote this outstanding essay, my thanks for honoring all of us who served, and especially to the ones "Unknown But To God." You have made your Mom and Dad, your brother, your grandparents, the rest of the family and all of us in this great country of ours very proud of you. Thank you for remembering.