Student-MadeApr 5, 2023

updated Nov 20, 2023

Recognizing Outstanding Writing

MHS student earns county’s top honor

Fiona Clary ’26 never met her great-grandfather, but she knew enough about his experiences in World War II to know it would make for an interesting story.

And, Fiona was right. She was recently recognized as the top Berkshire County finisher in the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 448’s “Voice of Democracy” essay contest. Earlier in the school year, she was named the top finisher at MHS and in the city of Pittsfield.

Students compete in the annual contest on school, local, state, and national levels, writing and recording a three- to five-minute essay on a patriotic theme. When Fiona heard this year’s theme — “Why is the Veteran Important?” — she thought about the veterans she knew, and her great-grandfather came to mind.

“His experience was so unique that I thought it would be a good response to the prompt,” says Fiona, who knew a bit of the story, but needed to do some research. “Fortunately, he had passed on a lot of letters and pictures, so we had a lot of things to help me along the way.”

James Clary was 21 years old when he was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Corps and later shot down during a bombing mission over central Italy. He was hidden by locals, arrested by Nazis, held for a year in a prisoner of war camp — and lived to tell the tale. He returned to Pittsfield, where he and his wife raised 15 children. James Clary passed away in 1989.

“I was struck by how interesting his story was,” notes Fiona, who also interviewed her grandfather and father for her essay and was glad she could put shape around her great-grandfather’s experiences. “I like to write, but I don’t get to do it very often, so when I saw this contest, I thought it would be a good opportunity to do that and to share his story.”

Congratulations, Fiona!