Thirteen-year-old Michael Putlak was a young man on a mission when he sat down to pen an essay on Veterans Day.
“I wanted to write something that was good,” said the seventh grade Dawson County Middle School student. “I didn’t want it to be like any other essay.”
Putlak’s paper was chosen from among 600 other local students in the past several weeks as district-wide winner of the Veterans Day essay contest, sponsored by the Veterans Affairs of Dawson County.
Sponsors paid Putlak a surprise visit at school last week.
Last year’s veteran of the year, Wayne Cantrell, pinned a keepsake medal on the student’s T-shirt for his efforts.
Cantrell was impressed with Putlak’s essay.
“He did a fine job,” Cantrell said. “It was well-written, and you could tell it came from his heart.”
Putlak’s English teacher, Caroline Bridges, agreed. “He’s a gifted writer,” Bridges said. “He worked hard on this.”
Parents Denny and Jennifer Putlak were proud of their son.
Organizers told them the news a week before Michael was honored. Jennifer Putlak said it was a tough secret to keep.
“We were extremely excited to find out he’d won,” she said.
School-wide winners included Black’s Mill Elementary School student Taylor Anglin, Robinson Elementary’s Jenna Lancaster, Dawson County Middle School’s Brooke Wende and Riverview Middle School student, Amelia Austin.