LAWTON, OK (KSWO) –A Lawton High School student recently won a nationwide poetry contest put on by the Daughters of the American Revolution.
"I grew ragged, but still you wore me with pride. You didn't want to wear me on the flight back home, I couldn't protect you as you were spat on and abused. I couldn't protest as you shoved me in some closet."
Junior Jackson Cuzzort says he was encouraged to enter the poetry contest in November by his AP English teacher Dr. Terry Freeman. Cuzzort says after several rough drafts, he presented a finished product to the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. They determined his entry was the best in the region and they presented it to the national organization, which decided Jackson's was the best in the entire country.
His poem was about his grandfather's experience in the Vietnam War. He titled it 'Olive Jacket, Size Large,' telling the story about the Vietnam War through the eyes of a soldier's field jacket.
Jackson said the Vietnam War left his grandfather with life-altering side effects. A memory that made it easier for him to envision the thoughts of a soldier's field jacket.
"He'd have screaming nightmares and he was an alcoholic. I feel like it had a big impact on me as a child to see the way somebody like him who gave up so much was treated like that," Cuzzort said.
Cuzzort said he channeled his feelings of disappointment about how his grandfather was treated after returning home from the war into motivation for writing his poem. He says he wanted his words to honor not only his grandfather's legacy, but all the Vietnam War veterans who had been forgotten.
"I enjoy expressing myself. I feel like I'm not that eloquent at speaking, but I feel like I'm pretty eloquent when I write," Cuzzort said.
Something he credits his English teacher for teaching him how to do it.
"Doc always stresses we should write adult poems. Someone reading our poems shouldn't be able to think they were written by teenagers. We should explore adult, well thought out themes," Cuzzort said.
Freeman says his students work hard and he's glad to see them getting recognized at the national level.
"It's one thing for me to say good job, but it's another thing for somebody outside the room to say nice work," Freeman said.
Cuzzort says winning first place in a national poetry contest came as a shock to him, he hopes his poem has made the Vietnam veterans, especially his grandfather, proud.
Cuzzort received a certificate of recognition for his first place win. He says he looks forward to entering more writing contests.
Cuzzort's grandfather isn't the only member of his family who served in the military. Both his stepmother and stepfather are in the Navy.