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I'll be really honest. I had never heard of the Fleet Reserve Association, or FRA, until a good friend, Bill Davis, who's a member of Branch 98 of the FRA, emailed to tell me about the organization's essay contest.

According to Bill, the FRA is a congressionally chartered, non-profit organization, representing the interests of current and former enlisted members of the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. In addition to its advocacy work on Capitol Hill in support of enlisted personnel, FRA aids its members with career issues by maintaining close relationships with government agencies and by educating lawmakers about the challenges facing those who serve in the armed forces. The FRA Education Foundation also awards scholarships totaling $100,000 annually, sponsors a national essay contest, and assists its members with disaster relief grants.

Now that I understood just how incredible this organization was, and all they do, it was easy to agree to help him promote the organization's Americanism Essay Contest, especially since it was exclusively for students in grades 7 through 12 and the overall Grand National Prize Winner will receive $5,000.

So, for those students, here are the guidelines of the essay. In an effort to promote patriotism among America's youth, participants are invited to submit a 350-word essay centered on this year’s theme: The Bill of Rights and me.

“Each entrant must be sponsored by an FRA member or branch,” explains Emmett Smith. “We’re proud to sponsor students, including those who are home-schooled, from the Ark-La-Tex.”

Winners are selected at the branch level in each grade category, which are forwarded to compete in one of FRA’s eight regions. Regional winners are then forwarded to the Association’s National Americanism Committee, where first, second and third place winners are selected in each grade category. The Grand National Winner is selected from this elite group of writers and receives the $5,000 cash award.

Essays must be legibly written or typed on one side of the paper and each entry must include a separate sheet stating the entrant’s name, address, telephone number, name of school (or “home schooled”) and grade, the number of words in the essay, and name of the sponsoring member or branch. Essays must be submitted through an FRA member or local FRA branch before the December 1st deadline.

To learn more about FRA’s Americanism Essay Contest, contact Emmett Smith at 318-617-1018 or rpsc.smith@gmail.com. Additional information can be found at www.fra.org.