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Our View: Stop by VA office to read 'The notebook'

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By The Staff

Lancaster County employees have a “new boss” today. It’s Brooklyn Springs Elementary School first-grader Nathan Gibson.
Nathan will spend the day with Lancaster County Administrator Steve Willis, after winning the grand prize in “The Veteran in Your Life” essay contest. Nathan, a student in Rena Cunningham’s class, chose to write about his “big brother,” U.S. Army medic Dwayne “Big Mac” Mackey.   
“Nathan’s essay came directly from the heart and you could tell it,” said Robin Helms, Lancaster County Veterans Affairs officer. “When you read it, it came from him. Nathan was very sincere.”  
When the Lancaster County Veterans Affairs Office announced its sponsorship of the essay contest, there were many unknowns, including how many students would enter.
However, right now there are 68 student-written essays on display in a notebook at the Veterans Affairs office inside the county administration building, including those by winners Nathan Gibson (elementary school), Jayne Small (middle school) and Alexa (Lexie) Watkins (high school). Jayne attends Buford Middle School and Lexie is a junior at Indian Land High School.
“It’s amazing to hear a veteran’s story told through the eyes of a child. Some of them will make you cry,” Helms said. “We placed all of them in a notebook to display for our veterans to read. I know they will be as touched by them as we have been.”
Helms said she hopes the county’s military veterans will stop by to read through them.
Based on the response, Helms said Veterans Affairs will make the essay contest a yearly event.
“I think we will, just as we did the flag-raising ceremonies to honor each branch of the service,” Helms said. “Our veterans really enjoyed those.”
However, she said they hope to schedule it a little closer to Memorial Day. April was selected for the essay contest since the theme of the 2011 National County Government Month was “Serving Our Veterans, Armed Forces and Their Families.”      
Helms said Lancaster County should be as proud of its students as its veterans.
We agree. These essays are a priceless reminder for all of us who take our veterans and the freedoms they have provided us with for granted.
Maybe the winning essay could be shared at the annual Memorial Day Service, too.
We encourage you to stop by the Lancaster County Veterans Affairs Office and read some of the essays when you have a chance. You will be just as proud of these students as we are.
Here is Nathan’s winning essay to read one last time:
Dwayne Nathaniel Mackey
By Nathan Gibson
The veteran in my life is my big brother, Big Mac.
His name is Dwayne Nathaniel Mackey. He was a medic in the U.S. Army.
He is not just my brother, he is my friend.
When I came to live with my Mommie and met Big Mac, he looked like the jolly giant to me. But he is gentle and loving. He helped me settle into a new life of love and true family. He helped me to understand love has no color.
As he waits for a new kidney, he tells me to stay strong and be the best that I can be like a good soldier should do.
When I grow up, I want to be a good Army man just like him.