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Virginia War Memorial Announces Veterans Day Essay Contest Winners 2023

(L-R) David Contreras, 8th grade homeschooled student in Henrico; Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears; Mia Ramos, 11th grade student at W.T. Woodson High School in Fairfax


Virginia War Memorial Announces Winners Of 2023 Veterans Day Student Essay Contest
Students from Fairfax County and Henrico County Honored  During 67th Annual Veterans Day Ceremony in Richmond


(Richmond) An eighth-grade student from Henrico County and a high school junior from Fairfax County were the first-place winners in the Virginia War Memorial’s 2023 Veterans Day Student Essay Contest. The winners were announced at the 67th Annual Veterans Day Ceremony held Friday, November 10 at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond.

The winner in the middle school category is David Contreras, an 8th grade homeschooled student who lives in Henrico. His teacher is his mother, Rachel Contreras.

The winner in the high school category is Mia Ramos, a 11th grade student at W. T. Woodson High School in Fairfax.  Her teacher is Ashley Kipperman.

The annual competition was open to middle and high school-age students residing in Virginia and enrolled in public or private schools or homeschooled.  The essay topic for the 2023 competition was “A Virginian Who Served in the Military During the Korean War Era Who Inspires Me.”

Both contest winners were invited to Richmond accompanied by their parents, guardians and teachers where they read their essays aloud as part of the Veterans Day Ceremony on stage in the E. Bruce Heilman Amphitheater at the Virginia War Memorial. The students were personally congratulated by and Virginia Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earle-Sears; Major General James W. Ring, Adjutant General of Virginia; Virginia Department of Veterans Services Commissioner Daniel Gade; and Virginia War Memorial Director Dr. Clay Mountcastle.

The students also received prize packages donated by McDonald’s Restaurants of Richmond and Hampton Roads and the Virginia War Memorial Foundation.

“We are pleased to join Lieutenant Governor Earle-Sears, Commissioner Gade and all our fellow Virginians in congratulating Mia and David on their winning entries in the Virginia War Memorial’s 2023 Veterans Day Student Essay Contest.  Congratulations also to all of the students from throughout the Commonwealth that took the time to write essays and submit essays this year,” said Dr. Clay Mountcastle, Virginia War Memorial Director.

“Educating our young people and passing on the stories of service and sacrifice of our men and women who served is one of our most important missions here at the Virginia War Memorial. With their inspiring words, both written and presented in person during the Veterans Day Ceremony, these two inspiring students demonstrate the importance of this vital mission.”

The winning essays are posted online on the Virginia War Memorial Foundation website:

About the Virginia War Memorial

The mission of the Virginia War Memorial is to Honor Veterans, Preserve History, Educate Youth, and Inspire Patriotism in All.  Dedicated in 1956, the Memorial includes the names of the nearly 12,000 Virginia heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice during World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, and the Global War on Terrorism.  The Virginia War Memorial is and will always be the Commonwealth’s tribute to those who served and most especially, to those who died defending our freedoms.

The Virginia War Memorial is a division of the Virginia Department of Veterans Services (DVS) and serves as an integral part of its mission in support of all Virginians who have served in our military.  It is located at 621 South Belvidere Street, Richmond, Virginia 23220 and is open Monday-Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 12 noon to 4 p.m.  Admission is free, except for select events.  For more information, please visit

About the Virginia Department of Veterans Services

The Virginia Department of Veterans Services (DVS) is a state government agency with 50 locations across the Commonwealth of Virginia.  DVS traces its history to 1928 and the establishment of the Virginia War Service Bureau to assist Virginia’s World War I veterans.  Today, DVS assists veterans and their families in filing claims for federal veterans benefits; provides veterans and family members with linkages to services including behavioral healthcare, housing, employment, education, and other programs. The agency operates four long-term care facilities offering in-patient skilled nursing care, Alzheimer’s/memory care, and short-term rehabilitation for veterans; and provides an honored final resting place for veterans and their families at three state veterans cemeteries.  It operates the Virginia War Memorial, the Commonwealth’s tribute to Virginia’s men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice from World War II to the present. For more information, please visit