Many may not think of military dreams and poetry as going hand-in-hand, but for Blaine High School ninth-grader Giovanni Sanchez it’s just another step towards the future.
Sanchez won third place in the seventh to ninth-grade age category for Sen. Al Franken’s Military Child and National Poetry Month contest. Sanchez wants to attend West Point after high school and entered the contest in hopes of putting it on his resume. He doesn’t write poetry often and didn’t expect to win.
“I kind of entered just to enter,” he said. “I was surprised I won.”
Franken held the contest to celebrate April as National Poetry Month and Month of the Military Child. He invited military children in Minnesota to enter and write a poem about life as a military child in no more than 300 words.
There were 10 winners in each of the three age groups: kindergarten to sixth grade, seventh to ninth grade and 10th to 12th grade. The top three winners in each group were invited to meet the senator, his wife Franni and the panel of judges at a reception in Franken’s St. Paul office on May 29, according to Minnesota Communications Coordinator Marc Kimball.
The panel of judges included Minnesota Commissioner of Veteran’s Affairs Larry Shellito, Minnesota Poet Laureate Joyce Sutphen, Adjutant general of the Minnesota National Guard Maj. Gen. Rick Nash, Minnesota Commissioner of Education Dr. Brenda Cassellius, Minnesota author Kao Kalia Yang and Minnesota Lynx Coach Cheryl Reeve. Sanchez said many of the judges discussed his poem with him and why they liked it.
Sanchez’s father, mother and sister are all military members. His father Capt. Adrian Sanchez is the International Security Assistance Force Deputy in northern Afghanistan serving on his second tour. Sanchez’s mother Cmdr. Lorlee Sanchez is an information dominance warfare director with a local navy unit and his sister is going to be a senior at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Sanchez’s poem “My Experience as a Military Child” describes growing up in a military family with parents away on duty.
“I talked about how it affects me, what I gain out of my dad being home and what I lose out of him being gone,” he said.
Sanchez’s father left in late March for a 400-day deployment and may return sometime next year.
His mother was away on duty when Sanchez was seven, which he described in the poem. Despite the absence of his parents, Sanchez can’t wait to join the military and greatly desires to attend West Point after graduation.
“Choosing the military can be scary, but I can’t think of anything more worthy. I plan on West Point in just three years, knowing military life is a hard career,” he wrote in the poem.
Sanchez said he has wanted to be in the military ever since he was young.
“It’s not an option not to go. My parents aren’t forcing me or anything, I just really want to go,” he said.
Contest winners received a certificate, and the overall winner received an autographed book by Minnesota author and host of “A Praire Home Companion” Garrison Keillor. The top three poems for each category will be framed and displayed either in Franken’s office in St. Paul or his office in Washington, D.C., according to Kimball.
“You can’t help but be in tears, especially when you read them back-to-back because now you know what these kids go through… Senator Franken was impressed by the challenges these kids face when a family member goes away to serve,” Kimball said.
Bethany Kemming is at firstname.lastname@example.org