Fifth and sixth graders from Wadena-Deer Creek School were asked the question, " Why are you proud to be an American?" Their answers were varied, but it's clear a level of pride exists among these young writers.

Top essayists in the fifth and sixth grade essay contest include:

Fifth grade

First place: Bristol Wynn, Cayden Clark, Aubree VanRoekel and Teeghan Robinson.

Second place: Danielle Lorentz, Faylynn Juaire, Adam Philippy and Jadeyn Malisheske

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Sixth grade

First place: Hudson Hathaway, Emma Betterman, Addison Hilluka and Avery Flath

Second place: LilyMae Johnson, Lily Stroeing, Abigail Worden and Raliegh Parker

Check out their essays below:

Why I'm proud to be an American

By Bristol Wynn

I am proud to be an American because I have freedom and can make my own choices. I thank the past and present Veterans for giving me freedom. America is home to many people. In America, I feel that I can say something and not punished. I thank the men and women who fought for our rights and freedom.

“We will always remember, we will always be proud, we will always be prepared, so we will always be free," Ronald Reagan once spoke. I don't think “proud" is a good way to say how I feel about America. I feel the appropriate way is by using the words "grateful” and "privileged". I thank the soldiers for having courage, standing tall, and fighting for our freedom.

One of the most special Veterans I thanks is someone I call grandpa! My grandpa Mike was one of the brave men who served for our country. I am thankful to have public education, churches, stores and many more places to enjoy! America has never made me lose my Faith and Hope. Living in America gives me many opportunities. I could never be a prouder American. I value America with all my heart. Harry S. Truman once said "America was not built on fear, American was built on courage, on imagination and on unbeatable determination to do the job at hand. Us as Americans can watch the television and see that we have the rights that others never got. Our troops risk their lives for the freedom we exercise for.

So I stand with my chest out and a smile on my face when I pledge to the American flag because I am so proud to be and American! Thank you!

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By Danielle Lorentz

I'm proud to be an American, because we are safe. I want to thank the veterans. I also want to thank police officers, firefighters, doctors, nurses for all your service that you do. I am proud to be an American because we have people to protect us. Another reason I am proud to be an American is for our freedom. I am proud, because we have land, and we can make businesses. We have houses, schools and jobs. Tyler Bivins once said "I am proud to be an American because we have brave soldiers and police and way more people that keep us safe “I know our brave soldiers and officers and people will put their life on the line to protect me, my family, my friends and neighbors. I am a stranger they love us all. I stand with my chest out. A smile on my face when I pledge to the American flag because I am so proud to be an American.

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By Cayden Clark

I am proud to be an American because of all the hard work our veterans have done for all of us. We fought for what we deserve. We don't only fight for us but we help other countries in need. I am not just proud to be an American but I am thankful, grateful and lucky to be an American. Our veterans have risked their lives, some even lost their lives for us. Some don't realize how long our veterans worked to keep us safe. How hard some people worked to keep us safe. I think we should give thanks to all of them for what they've done for us.

I am proud to be an American because of all the stuff that we are lucky to have that a lot of other places don't have. I know America was attacked on 9/11/2001 and I know a lot of people were hurt and a lot died but I am proud of all the first responders that risked their lives to help all those people who were hurt. I could not be more happy or lucky to be an American citizen. I am not just proud of our first responders but I am all so proud of the citizens that have helped and are helping. Am proud that we can stay out at night, we can go where we want to, we can live how we want to live and that's why I am proud to be an American.

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By Faylynn Juaire

I am proud to be an American because I have rights that some people don't have. I can be who I want to be and I can live freely. I have a wonderful family and friends. We have a great military that protects us. I have a wonderful house and I get food every day. We all accept each other for who we all are and are nice. I get to celebrate holidays like Thanksgiving with a nice meal and Christmas with presents. Some people don't get all that stuff. I get a great school that provides us with food and education. They teach us how to read and write and do math which will help us a lot in the future. We get to play games and watch movies sometimes too. And that is why I am proud to be an American.

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By Aubree Van Roekel

I would like to start by saying, the 1st amendment has given me the right to my own opinion in this essay. I am proud to be an American because I feel safe in my home. I know the soldiers and police officers , whether on the frontlines or behind the desks will do their best to protect my family, friends, neighbors, classmates, and this country. My grandad was one who served twenty years in the Airforce. These hero's sacrifice their time, family, and sometimes life for us, and they don't even know us. If there were not men and women willing to protect us all, we would not have the chance to live the life we are today. I am proud of all who serve.

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By Adam Philippy

I am proud to be an American because it means you have freedom. I am able to go to school and play sports, see my friends and be able to do what I want. The freedom came from the people who fought for our country. Being American also means you get to choose where to live and what you want to be when you grow up. Being American means I am able to speak my mind without getting in trouble. I am proud because other kids my age don't have these freedom in other countries so I am very happy about that.

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By Teeghan Robinson

I am proud to be an American, because we are the land of the free, giving us endless opportunities for freedom and happiness. This is the home of the brave where our strong and brave soldiers fight to keep our freedom. I also am proud to be an American, because we are one nation and stand together no matter the challenges. We stand together as a country and learn new skills. We can work hard at our dreams without limits and thanks to all soldiers for protecting our country and sacrificing your lives for us. We all appreciate you and that is why this is the land of the free.

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By Jadeyn Malisheske

I am proud to be an American, because we have the right to do things. Here I know I'm free. We have the right to make decisions. I am proud to be an American because I have family, friends, and family members. There are so many reasons why I am proud to be an American. One reason is that we have the military to fight for the wars in life. I am proud to be an American because we have freedom. And freedom matters to the ones in the world that don't have freedom. I am also proud to be an American because I live in the United States of America. I am also proud to be an American because of the Veterans. Veterans Day is a day where you celebrate the flag, military, and other things. Some people think that if we didn't have the military the wars would have gotten worse than what it is now. I am proud to be an American because here I know that I am me. I am also proud to be an American for the food and water we have. I am grateful and proud to be an American. And that is why I am proud to be an American.

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By Hudson Hathaway

I am proud to be an American because all citizens are equal no matter your culture, skin color, and gender. They all are the same which is one huge reason I am proud to be an American. Also, women can vote which is very good. We have a very strong military including Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. They have done an amazing job keeping us safe and free. It is unbelievable I am so happy!

Another reason I am proud to be an American is our country is free. When we say free, that doesn't mean I can purchase America for free, it means that we can make our own decisions and have a say in things. For instance, we can vote which is freedom. We can wear what we want. We can choose which school we go to. Thanks again veterans for your hard work. You all are real heroes! We appreciate you!

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By Lily Mae Johnson

I am proud to be an American because all of my family lives in America so I can see them better than if they lived somewhere else. A different reason why I am proud to be an American is that great people and animals live in America just like me. Another reason I am proud to be an American is that Americas has great people that fought for our freedom for we can stay safe and we also have great history too! The last reason why I am proud to be an American is that all my friends live in Americas so I can see them.

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By Emma Bettermann

I am proud to be an American because I have an amazing family and friends and also the best teachers. I love how many people sacrificed for us to have freedom and rights for women and men to be equal. I am also proud to be an American because we have rights to go to school and buy food so we can feed our family. In a book my teacher read to my classmates and me, this girl didn't have a right to go to school and speak up about how it is unfair for girls and women. She finally spoke up about it and she got hurt badly but her book and her words are traveling around the world and giving people hope. When I grow up I want to join the army to fight and protect America and everyone in it. If I can't, I will be happy that I am free and honor those who lost their lives for us.

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By Lily Stroeing

I'm proud to an American because I can live where I want, work where I want, go where I want, go to church whenever and believe in what I want.

Another reason America is great is because we have clean and safe water to drink. We have lots of special places like the Statue of Liberty that represents freedom. Another special place is the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls. These places represent the beautiful nature in America. Another place that represent our country is Mount Rushmore that was made in memory of some presidents.

A final reason that America is great are the men and women who died for me to be here on this day. I know it took a lot, so I thank them all. I also want to thank the people that served our country like my great-grandpa George and grandpa John. That's why I'm proud to be an American.

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By Addison Hillukka

This is a question that could be answered in many ways, but to me America is the place I call home. It is where I was born and has shaped me into the person I am today. There are so many things that make up my idea of why I am proud to be an American.

America is about opportunity, individuals can do great things in America that they may not have been able to do elsewhere. America is about fulfilling the ultimate dream. It's about equality no matter what they may look like on the outside. It's about democracy lending a hand to those in need and selflessness and coming together as one. Many others making sacrifices for America and their loved ones.

And that is why I am proud to be an American.

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By Abigail Worden

I am proud to be an American because of all the freedom and liberty. There are kind, caring, gentle, sweet and helpful people. We remember those who lost their lives to save ours and for our freedom. We honor the Navy, Army, Coast Guard, Air Force and Marines. We'll keep our freedom no matter what the world throws our way. When we go to school, we learn about freedom and liberty and learn what it's like to be an American. Our opportunities are endless and we hope to keep it that way. Everyone should be glad to be an American. These are the reasons I'm proud to be an American.

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By Avery Flath

I am proud to be an American because of all the rights that we have. We get to go to school, wear what we want, and get to choose what job we want to have instead of having one picked for us. I am thankful for all the sacrifices that were made so that we can live free. I want to remember all the lives that were lost. They had to stare, be cold and miss their families. And we get to do sports and hang out with our friends. I am proud to be an American because of all the unselfish people who got us this freedom. Saying thank you is not enough. We should donate things to them and also have suppers with them. There are so many things we can do to show gratitude. I feel bad for the families who had to go through loss and other sacrifices. We should always be thankful and give appreciation.

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By Raleigh Parker

I'm proud to be an American because we are free because of brave men and women. We also have free public education so that everyone can learn. We have so many opportunities to do things we love, like sports. Also, we have freedom of speech so that we can say what we believe. We have freedom of religion so that we can believe in what we think about our religion. I'm proud because we have the strongest army in the whole entire world. We wrote the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. These documents are part of why I'm proud to be an American.