It can be hard to say who is qualified and has the characteristics to be a hero, but the children participating in the Armed Services Young Men's Christian Association’s, “My Military Hero” essay contest saw things from a different view.
Surrounded by loved ones, 19 children from eight elementary schools and one home-school received awards for their heart-warming essay submissions at the ASYMCA awards ceremony held at the Pearl Harbor community center near the Naval Exchange, April 30.
“This is about the sixth year we’ve done this and it get’s bigger every year,” said Kathy Kinneman, community relations and fund development director, ASYMCA. “One of the things that really pleases me is that we have more schools involved this year than we’ve had in the past.”
Although their heroes had no superhuman powers, they all had one thing in common. They put their lives at risk everyday to ensure the safety of their families and their country and hold a special place in someone’s heart.
The contest was broken down into grade levels ranging from first to third, with the essays reviewed by three judges.
As the submissions came in, one stood out.
Rhyza LaForce, 7, wrote an essay about the Marine who saved her father and the time he spent in Iraq in 2004 before coming home.
Unlike many of the other stories about fathers, it wasn’t about doing right or leading troops. It was about saving lives.
“When he opened the door, he used his body as a shield to protect my dad and his Marines from getting shot,” were the words LaForce read during the ceremony.
Her hero was Lance Cpl. David Houck, who deployed with her father in 2004 and sacrificed his life for his fellow Marines. Houck made it possible for her father to come home.
LaForce said her parents would always tell her stories about Houck and she chose to write about him and how her dad was able to come home.
Her parents said they were very proud of her.
“[The children] kind of surprised me,” said Jeremy LaForce, Rhyza’s father. “It’s cool to see that they pay attention to the stories you tell them and that people don’t get forgotten.”
LaForce’s essay won a $100 gift card as the grand prize for the contest and the hearts of the other parents present.
“Every essay was beautiful, but it certainly deserved to win the grand prize,” Kinneman said. “It made us cry when we read it.”