By Jennifer Grimes

Triplicate staff writer

After a life-changing trip to Honduras, Amber Mayhue had the perspective to write an award winning speech on the price of freedom.

As a sophomore at Del Norte High School, Mayhue wrote a theme for an honors English class assignment, What Price Freedom.

Her teacher, Michael Mealue, thought the essay was good enough for the Veterans of Foreign Wars scholarship competition.

Mayhue won both the district and regional competitions held here and in Humboldt County respectively. Now shes off to win the state show in Sacramento next week.

We had to write about what price we thought was appropriate for freedom, she explained.

In Honduras, last summer, she said she learned what price people there pay for not being free.

There are checkpoints along the roadways where you are stopped by armed militia asking to see your travel permits, reads Mayhues speech.

I had never realized that someone somewhere would have to get governmental permission to have a holiday visit at grandmas house.

Mayhue went to the South American country to aid victims of hurricane Mitch. She came back, she said, with an appreciation for life in the United States.

One of the reasons she won is she took a personal approach from her trip to Honduras, Mealue said.

The 16-year-old didnt come away from her experience just feeling lucky to be an American, she said. Freedom means responsibility, too.

To keep this freedom, the cost will be restraint, responsibility, and sacrifice, states Mayhues speech.

Mayhues award for winning the regional level contest is an all expense paid trip to Sacramento for three days. There, she will compete against 24 other California students.

If Mayhue wins, Washington D.C. and the nationals are next. The VFW will award a $125,000 scholarship to the national winner.

Del Norte County High School has participated in the VFW speech contest for the last 25 years, Mealue said. During that time, 20 students have made it to the state level, and one student made it to the nationals and took fifth place in 1984.

But, even if Mayhue doesnt make it to Washington D.C., she said she learned a valuable lesson about the price of everyday life in the United States.