$2,000 Essay Contest for Military Families

Each Memorial Day readers ask me, "How can we support the troops?" This year the answer is easy: forward a news of an available scholarship to family and friends with military ties, putting their children one step closer to a valuable college degree.
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"Support Our Troops" may be Memorial Day's official slogan, but this holiday Sergeant Chuck Luther is pushing for a second message: support our troops' children.

Millions have been following the sergeant's extraordinary story on TV, on radio and in print. Luther served 12 years in the Armed Forces, earning 22 honors for his performance. He led troops in Iraq, where he was severely wounded by mortar fire. Luther was then tortured by U.S. Army officials—held in a closet for over a month, under enforced sleep deprivation—until he agreed to sign fraudulent documents stating that his wounds were caused by a pre-existing condition, personality disorder, making him ineligible for benefits.

Since 2001, over 25,600 soldiers have been pressed into signing these phony personality disorder documents, saving the military over $14.2 billion in disability and medical care. After Luther's release, he returned to Texas and started a non-profit organization, Disposable Warriors, which assists veterans who have been wrongfully discharged and denied benefits. His organization has helped dozens of wounded veterans secure disability and medical benefits and, in coordination with officials at Fort Hood, prevented active-duty soldiers from being wrongfully discharged.

Today, says Luther, his organization is pushing one step further, reaching out to soldiers' children, who, during their parents' long struggle for benefits, often struggle themselves, lacking the funds to pursue their education. That's why Disposable Warriors is announcing the Sergeant Chuck Luther Academic Scholarship, a $2,000 essay contest open to children from military families.

Having reported on the personality disorder scandal for five years, I was asked to help judge this year's contest and publish the winning entry in my column. I agreed. Below are the essay contest's guidelines.

Each Memorial Day readers ask me, "How can we support the troops?" This year the answer is easy: forward news of this scholarship to family and friends with military ties, putting their children one step closer to a valuable college degree.

The Luther scholarship provides $2,000 to a student seeking to further his education. The student must be the child of a former or active-duty soldier.

Applicants must:

Educate themselves about the personality disorder scandal by reading articles, watching the TV coverage and listening to the radio reporting.

Submit an essay no longer than 800 words answering one of these questions: "How has the personality disorder scandal affected you and your family?" or "What can we, as Americans, do to fix the personality disorder scandal?"

The entry should be submitted by email to this address.

Deadline for entry is Thursday, December 8, at 5 p.m. EST.

The winner will receive a $2,000 check for his college fund and a framed, personalized award certificate signed by Sgt. Luther. The winning entry will also be published in the Huffington Post.

Entries must include the student's full name, age, grade, phone number and postal address.

Each entrant hereby gives the judging committee permission to publish his essay, name and hometown on the Internet.

The contest is open to students from middle school and high school as well as current college and graduate school students seeking to complete their degrees.

If the committee receives two equally worthy entries, it reserves the right to select two winners, one from middle school and high school, one from college and graduate school, splitting the prize money, $1,000 per winner. If no entries merit the scholarship, the committee reserves the right not to select a winner. The $2,000 would then be added to next year's Luther Scholarship.

After selecting a winner, the committee will require the winning applicant to submit a photo of himself, along with proof of his parent's military service.

We are looking for an entry that employs knowledge of the personality disorder scandal without spending a tremendous amount of space regurgitating basic facts we already know.

Most important, we are looking for an entry that speaks in the first-person, from the heart, with an identifiable voice. Your entry should address the question in a personal way and should not sound like an English class essay about "a topic" or "issue." Preference will be given to applicants who describe productive actions they have taken, instead of actions others should take.

If you have further questions, you can contact us here.

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