Patriot's Pen

Each year more than 125,000 students in grades 6-8 enter the VFW’s Patriot’s Pen youth essay contest. The first-place winner from each state competes for national awards totaling $50,000, with each first-place state winner receiving a minimum of $500 at the national level. The national first-place winner wins $5,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. 

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.

2015 Patriot's Pen winner

Ethan Schroeder, a 7th-grade student, was named the 2014-15 Patriot's Pen 1st-place winner.                    

His essay on the 2014-15 theme, "Why I Appreciate America's Veterans," won him a $5,000 award. Ethan was sponsored by VFW Post 92 and its Auxiliary in New Kensington, Pa.  


The Patriot's Pen program is open to students in grades 6-8 (on the Nov. 1 deadline), who are enrolled in a public, private or parochial school or home study program in the United States and its territories.


The entry form for the upcoming 2016-17 contest will be available in early March 2016.

If you have any questions, please contact the VFW National Headquarters at kharmer@vfw.org for assistance.

The 2016-17 theme is: The America I Believe In 

Students can ask a teacher or youth group leader to supervise their progress in the competition. Then students can contact a local participating VFW Post and establish a contact person who is a member of that Post or its Auxiliary.

Essays must be no less than 300 words and cannot exceed 400 words. They should be submitted to the Post, along with the completed Patriot's Pen entry form no later than the November 1 deadline.

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.

Read the winning essay from 2014.  


FIND A POST to contact VFW members near you or visit a VFW STATE DEPARTMENT website.

Attention Teachers!

NASSP Logo 2015The National Association of Secondary School Principals has placed this program on the NASSP National Advisory List of Contests and Activities for 2015-16VFW thanks all of America's teachers and youth leaders for the time, effort and commitment they invest in our young people each year. We have a number of ways in which to assist you in helping to ensure your students get a head start on their future.