Essay Contest Fall 2016

“Honor, Courage, and Commitment”

In collaboration with the Character Resource Center at the University of San Diego, the Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation (FLHF) is pleased and proud to announce its annual essay contest for all public, private, and home school students in grades 6 through 8 and grades 9 through 12 in San Diego and Imperial Counties.  (The 2016 deadline has now passed, and the essay content is closed, with winners to be announced shortly.)


The purpose of this essay contest is to encourage students to develop and improve their thinking and writing skills as they address core values of the US Marine Corps and our society:   "Honor, Courage, Commitment."  The essay should specifically address:

What do honor, courage, and commitment mean to you?

Resources and Suggestions

Below are a few questions that students could ask themselves before beginning to write:

  1. How are the character traits demonstrated by you and others that you know?
  1. Do these character traits capture the sacrifice made by military men and women in wartime and service?
  1. Are there citizens and role models who show these traits in their daily work and in their service to others?
  1. Have these traits opened up new doors in your life or inspired you to do something in service to others?

To help students gain some background knowledge and insights before they start writing their essays, you may also consider introducing them to these two references.  These links are for two-page essays written by a Marine Corps helicopter pilot who served in Vietnam.  One essay is about "honor, courage and commitment" and the other is about "heroes."

Finally, copies of the 2015 winning essays can be accessed at:

We suggest that you guide your students regarding the structure of their essays: the purpose of writing the essay, the voice of the essay, the introduction and supporting paragraphs and conclusion.  If you wish, you could create an opportunity for peer editing of the students’ rough drafts.

Education Standards

This contest is offered to students and educators who wish to meet the California Department of Education mandate 235.5 (a) for character and civic education in grades 6-12 as well as Common Core Standards including the following:

Grade 6With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

Grade 9Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

Grade 11Introduce precise, knowledgeable claim(s), establish the significance of the claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that logically sequences the claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.

Who May Enter This Contest?

All students who are attending a public, private, charter, faith-based or home school in San Diego and Imperial Counties.

Category 1: For students who are in grades 6 through 8

Category 2: For students who are in grades 9 through 12

How to Enter

The essay contest is now closed.  Winners will be announced soon!

Once students have completed the final copy of their essays, they should give them to their teacher. Teachers, not students, send essays to the Foundation.

All essays must be the sole, original work of the student.

Students in grades 6 through 8 should submit an essay of not more than 600 words; students in grade 9 through 12 should submit an essay of not more than 1000 words.

The title of the essay and added footnotes do not contribute to the word count.

The teacher’s role is to select one or two of the best essays per class and to submit only those essays for consideration.

Keep a copy of the students' essays and the entry form(s) for your records.

Essay Judging Criteria

A panel of qualified judges will assess the essays.  Points awarded will be based on:

  • 50% -- Knowledge of the theme: The student showed a thorough knowledge of the theme in the essay: What do honor, courage, and commitment mean to you?
  • 25% -- Creativity and Originality of the essay: The student related the theme to her/his own experiences.
  • 25% -- Clarity of writing: The student's essay was written in an easy-to-understand format leaving the reader/judge with a clear understanding of her/his explanation of the theme.

Student Awards (each category)

FIRST PLACE recipient will receive:           $300 and an engraved plaque

SECOND PLACE recipient will receive:       $200 and an engraved plaque

THIRD PLACE recipient will receive:          $100 and an engraved plaque

A Certificate of Participation will be sent to teachers for each student entering the contest.

Teacher Awards

Each of the six teachers of winning students will receive:

  1. $200 for character education instructional materials, plus . . .
  2. $200 scholarship for each teacher who wishes to attend the University of San Diego Character Education Resource Center’s two-day Character Matters Conference in June 2017.
  3. Museum Field Trip: The teacher with a first-place student winner (in each category) will be offered up to $400 to support transportation costs to bring his/her class on a field trip to The Flying Leathernecks Aviation Museum.


Additional Information:

This contest is a joint collaboration between the Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation and the University of San Diego Character Education Resource Center.

All essays become the property of The Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation (“Foundation”) with exclusive rights to use winning essays and likeness in the promotion and execution of the organization’s educational programs and activities.  Each WINNING essay will be considered for publication in the Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation’s Log Book and for posting on the Foundation’s website.

Winning students and their parents/guardians may be asked to sign a photo permission form so that selected photos may appear on the Foundation web site and in other publications.

The Foundation is not responsible for lost submissions

The Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation gratefully acknowledges the financial support of San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) and Major Glenn Ferguson (USMC-retired) that helped make this contest possible.