Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
“Fifty million dead. Five hundred million infected. A third of the world’s population brought to their knees. Who is responsible for this tragedy; one of history’s greatest sorrows? It was war; and while tens of thousands fell to its bullets and bombardment, it was disease that tore through millions. In today’s chaotic world, we can benefit greatly by looking back on this perilous time and learning from the pitfalls of our ancestors. We can see how World War One created the most deadly pandemic in history, and by doing so apply the information to our current day.”
This was the thesis that led to Caden Flynn, a junior at West Platte High School in Weston, Mo., being named the first-place winner of the Friends of the Frontier Army Museum 2021 Essay Contest.
FFAM recently announced the winners following more than 40 essay submissions from students in ninth- through 12th-grade within 20 miles of Fort Leavenworth.
Submissions focused on “Pandemics in Military History” and had to “elaborate on pandemics in military history including innovations or changes in medical diagnosis, treatments and/or procedures from the Frontier era to today’s military,” according to the FFAM website.
FFAM was able to fund the contest with proceeds from the Haunted Tours in October 2020.
Flynn said he wanted to pick a topic that was relatable to modern day and included Fort Leavenworth.
“I knew that it would be difficult to incorporate all of those elements, but in researching what I understood to be the most devastating disease in modern history, I was fortunate to come across a few websites that mentioned (Fort Leavenworth) and an account of the city itself during the Spanish Flu,” Flynn said. “I think that we can learn a great deal from looking at the past and studying the actions of our ancestors. We have the benefit of knowing the consequences of their decisions, and I think it would be a shame to forgo such a useful tool. I also believe that in learning history, we honor the sacrifices made by those who came before us, who gave their lives so that we could have our own.”
Flynn received $1,000 cash for his first-place win.
“I’m very proud to have received first place,” he said. “Not only will this assist me financially, but it will also help with my resumé and my career.”
Angel Cramer, Leavenworth High School senior, was named the second-place winner and received $500 cash. While Cramer’s essay was also about the Spanish Flu in comparison with COVID-19, she focused specifically on the response of the U.S. Navy during both pandemics.
“My main motivation for entering the contest was that I was excited to apply my interest in history to use outside of school,” Cramer said. “I think it’s important to learn history because it is essential to thoroughly understand the past in order to fully address present and future problems. It can also just be incredibly fun and satisfying to study history once you discover the specific areas that interest you.”
Cramer said she plans to use her prize toward college at the University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, Pa., where she plans to major in history.
William Ayers, LHS senior, was named the third-place winner and received $250 cash. He focused on the way that technology, medical procedures and administration have changed over the centuries.
“I researched different eras, and I looked at how each war had different technology for medical procedures than the last,” Ayers said. “It is very special to me that I won anything at all. I was expecting very little from my essay submission, and it means a lot that my essay was good enough to get third.”