Tristan Graney, 11th Grade, Nevada Learning Academy, Las Vegas

“The Eyes of Service”

His eyes are a prideful road map of a state’s rich history, twinkling in the sunlight and filled with decade’s worth of memories and wonder about a place he loves dearly. At 80 years old, Fred Miller defines America and its sense of nationalistic values. He sat there one humid fall morning, at the Veterans’ Memorial Park in Boulder City, Nevada, a man who served his country in the Korean War, and spoke about the place he has lived his entire life.

“The only difference between being an American and a Nevadan,” Mr. Miller told me, “is a state line.”

I believe this is also how the Nevada State Legislature viewed America back in February of 1866, when it adopted our state’s motto of, “All for Our Country.” It was a calling for Nevada residents to embrace such an ideal and serve the public to better both our state and nation. The idea being that we, as prideful Nevadans, can unite in numerous ways, both big and small, citizens everywhere.

My parents told me from a very young age that giving back is not our duty, but rather a privilege bestowed upon all members of a community. The more we volunteer and dedicate a portion of our free time to public service, the better chance our state and country have of making the kind of progressive strides needed to be the healthiest and most productive nation we can become. We are a country built on the foundation of liberty and honor, and nothing expounds on those values more than helping others.

As a weekly volunteer at the Las Vegas Springs Preserve, my perspective on public service has dramatically changed over the last year. I have truly learned what it means to give back to my community and to hopefully follow the guide set forth by those public officials nearly 150 years ago in determining out state motto.

I can think of no better place than the Springs Preserve to not only serve, but to help educate others on our valley’s incredible history, shown through exhibits of nature and interactive science, while also offering a glimpse into Nevada’s true beauty through hikes and gardens and live animal shows.

Through this service, I believe my character has been strengthened and I have matured greatly while meeting many of my fellow Nevadans, citizens who are also passionate about preserving our state’s environment and honoring its history and motto.

We were a state founded on the premise that Nevada could help unite the nation during the Civil War, to demonstrate to the Confederacy that the Union was still a unified group. Even today, it’s important that we uphold such a vital responsibility; we do this through public service. It is the best way we can honor our state and country, by helping those in need.

It has been said that hard times don’t create heroes but, rather, it is during hard times when a hero is revealed to us. Mr. Miller is a hero, having served his country proudly overseas before returning to his native Nevada.

So too is someone like Jennifer Ramieh of the Southern Nevada chapter of the American Red Cross. She was one of the first respondents in the aftermath of a tornado hitting Moore, Oklahoma, last year, one of the first to tend to those who suffered such personal devastation.

This is what the state legislature meant in 1866, these sorts of selfless acts by ordinary people doing extraordinary things. This is what I believe they desired most from all of us in creating, “All for Our Country.”

I was able to practice my service ethics when attending the Hugh O’Brian Leadership (HOBY) seminar at the University of Las Vegas Nevada last summer, representing my sophomore class along with several other motivated young leaders from across our state.

We heard many speakers from Nevada who have started their own non-profit organizations, along with others who fuel public service. I took what I learned and brought it back to my student council, where as president, I have organized public service projects for us to help and engage the community.

Each month, we make 50 sack lunches and deliver them to the Las Vegas Rescue Mission to feed the homeless population. In this way and others, I hope to inspire Nevadans to take part in looking out for those less fortunate.

I plan on majoring in public or international affairs in college, hoping that will lead to a profession in working for a branch of the state department or in the foreign service. I am inspired to achieve these goals by the memory of my late grandfather, who with only a high school education began his government service with the U.S. Border Patrol and served proudly both overseas and in America for over 50 years. He was a true public servant and a hero in my eyes.

Nevada is known as many things to many people, such as “Battle Born,” and the “Silver State.” However, if you look at the Great Seal of the State of Nevada, you will discover what those who came before us desired the union’s 36th state to be known for. While there is not a single historical record that documents why our legislature chose, “All for Our Country,” such proof can be seen in the eyes of a man like Fred Miller.

We can understand what the goal was in 1866 through such a road map of a state’s rich history, twinkling in the sunlight and filled with decades worth of memories and wonder, of serving the public through selfless actions, defining what Nevada’s motto truly represents.