Four Arizona high school students will be honored as the 2021 “Waving the Flag of Freedom” High School Essay Competition sponsored by Honoring America’s Veterans, the nonprofit organization behind the Phoenix Veterans Day Parade. Each student will receive a $250 cash prize and their teachers will earn $150 for use in their classroom. The students will also be honored at and participate in the 25th Anniversary Parade on Thursday, November 11, 2021 in central Phoenix.

The winning essays focused on the theme “Waving the Flag of Freedom” and the winners are:

9th Grade: Avah Montgomery is a freshman at Shadow Mountain High School in Phoenix. Her essay shared an interview she did with her grandfather, a U.S. Navy veteran, and how his experiences in the military shaped the course of his life. Avah’s writing is inspired by writer Bryan Stevenson, speaker Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and poet Rupi Kaur for their activism, bravery and voices in speaking out for their beliefs. Avah currently participates in the Veterans Heritage Program through her school where she has the opportunity to write the stories of veterans for publication in the Library of Congress. At her school, she is a part of the Digital Academy of Advanced Placement Scholars (DAAPS). She was also chosen as one of the three winners in the Elk’s Lodge Essay Competition “How can Patriotism be Demonstrated,” and serves on the Youth Philanthropy Board, a program that is run by the Jewish Community Foundation. She is also participating in the North Valley Arts Academy’s production of The Little Mermaid. After high school, she aspires to become a professor of women’s and gender studies.


10th Grade: Isabell Wilson is a sophomore at Desert Edge High School in Goodyear. Her essay shared what she has learned from her parents’ service in the military. Isabell says her personal heroes are her parents. Her dad is a master sergeant in the Air Force and has been serving for almost 20 years and her mother is a registered nurse, currently working to become a nurse practitioner. She says she is inspired by her family and history when she writes. Isabel is a member of the Desert Edge Marching Band and school choir. When she’s not at school she is a volunteer with the Civil Air Patrol. Someday she hopes to become a pediatrician.


11th Grade: Talitha Jess Warren is a junior at Etz Chayim Academy. Her essay focused on the symbolism behind the American flag and her pride in her father’s accomplishments while serving in the U.S. Army. Talitha has a passion for music, especially playing the piano and singing. She also practices Combat Hapkido, a martial art, where she has attained a purple belt. Talitha has attended the American Legion Law Enforcement Career Academy (ALLECA) and received an award for being the most physically fit female. She says she is inspired to write by her mother, who taught her how to write at a young age. Her dream is to become a registered nurse and then join the Navy and use my skills to serve my country.


12th Grade: Peyton Pierce is a senior at Higley High School in Gilbert. Her essay discusses the meaning behind and symbolism of the American flag. Peyton began writing in the eighth grade at the encouragement of her teacher and says she loves to write about things she has a connection with, including several family members who are serving in the military. Peyton participates in the JROTC program at Higley High School and has participated in the Honors Academic Decathlon in the past. After high school, Peyton plans to go to community college and work her way into majoring in virology and epidemiology to one day work at the CDC and help prevent diseases and educate people on public health. She has received the Sons of The American Revolution (SARS) award both locally and placed fifth national. She is also one of the ten SRP/BBB Ethical Cadet Essay Contest Scholarship recipients this year.


Essay submissions were judged on focus on theme, creative writing, grammar, originality and content. The full texts of the winning essay submissions are available on the Honoring America’s Veterans website

The 2021 Phoenix Veterans Day Parade is possible thanks to many sponsors, including USAA, the University of Phoenix, TriWest Health Care Alliance, General Dynamics, and many others. Honoring America’s Veterans thanks each of its sponsors for their continued commitment to supporting veterans in our community.

About Honoring America’s Veterans 

Since 2011, Honoring America’s Veterans (HAV), a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization strives to help Arizona’s veterans heal and reintegrate back to society through honor and recognition events. These events include the Phoenix Veterans Day Parade, the Honoring Our Heroes Veterans Grand Marshals competition, and the Parade’s High School Essay program.