It's time to enter our Love Story Writing Contest

Love will soon be in the air with the arrival of Valentine’s Day. With it comes your chance to win a gift for you and your valentine by entering The Vindicator’s sixth annual Valentine Love Story Writing Contest.

The contest lets you sit in Cupid’s chair long enough to complete the following fictitious story with a romantic happily-ever-after ending for the main character, Sgt. Allison Andrews.

Using no more than 750 words, give us a clever ending that sets your entry apart from the others.


  1. Email your entry no later than midnight Sunday, Feb. 2, to Society/Features Editor Barb Shaffer at
  2. Don’t forget to include your name and phone number.
  3. Our judges will pick their favorite three versions.
  4. The winners will be notified by phone in time to have their pictures taken, to appear with their winning entries Sunday, Feb. 9.


First-place winner will receive a gift certificate for $100, and second-place winner gets a $50 gift certificate, both provided by Rulli Bros. of Austintown and Boardman. Third-place winner will receive a 2-pound box of assorted chocolates from Philadelphia Candies, provided by The Vindicator.

The story begins. ...


The plane was cramped, the buckle of her seat belt dug into her waist, the in-flight meal was awful, and the flight attendants were terse and rude.

Nonetheless, Sgt. Allison Andrews’ ebullient mood couldn’t be tempered. After a long two-year deployment in Afghanistan, she was finally heading home.

As part of a female military engagement team, she had worked with six other female officers as they assessed the needs of women and children in Afghanistan and helped find solutions to their problems. They visited women’s centers, orphanages and education centers, delivering supplies and conducting assessments at various sites around the country.

Sure, she wasn’t in a combat zone, ducking mortar fire or avoiding land mines, though she had great respect for her fellow soldiers who faced those each day. But she couldn’t deny the warm feeling of pride she held for her job and the impact it could have for future generations in Afghanistan.

Allison really and truly believed that even when she was long gone from the world, there might be some good out there that she, in part, made happen.

Above her head, the plane’s seat-belt icon blinked and then turned off, eliciting a thankful sigh from Allison. She released her belt and reached into the overhead compartment, searching for her rucksack.

From the front pocket of her bag, she pulled out three letters. The edges of the envelopes were tattered, and the pages inside were tearing at their folds. The paper was crinkled, and the black ink now looked a bit gray.

The letters were from home, as indicated by the stamp of her local post office on the corner of the envelope, but there was no return address.

She couldn’t figure out the identity of the author of the letters, but she deeply treasured their words. There were words of great pride about her service and what she had given up for her country. “You’re not forgotten while you’re away,” the author wrote. “You’re on my mind each and every day.”

The words in the letters were present tense, but they made Allison dare to dream about the future, about what she wanted to accomplish and when she wanted to settle down.

She had kept the letters in the inside pocket of her uniform since she received them. Their words helped her the most on days when she and her team went into places that seemed beyond help or on days when Allison was haunted by the thought of friends headed into dangerous battles.

On an overhead monitor, a plane icon showing the progress of her trip slowly but surely came closer to home.

She squeezed the letters and felt her stomach do a little flip. The last letter had ended with the message, “I’ll be there to welcome you home.”

As the plane descended, her heart thumped as every emotion regarding the letters bubbled to the surface. Would the mystery author be whom she expected?

Allison was one of the last passengers who left the plane, and her bag was one of three suitcases still spinning on the baggage carousel. She headed toward the waiting area, and in the distance, saw her name written on a large white sign. Unable to see who held the sign, she began to run until the face of her mystery writer became clear ...

(The beginning of this year’s love story was written by Vindicator staffer Sarah Foor.)

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