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THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan
THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan
Brian Nepogoda and Aaron Lin, both of Francis Lewis High School, will attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

The country’s largest Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) program will send two more cadets to West Point.

Aaron Lin, 19, and Brian Nepogoda, 17, have been accepted to the U.S. Military Academy.

The JROTC program at their high school, Francis Lewis, has sent more than 20 cadets to West Point since 2003. Five of Francis Lewis’ JROTC alumni graduated from the prestigious military academy last year.

“I really, honestly can’t even describe my feelings. It’s an extreme honor,” Lin said. “It was my goal since I was a little kid. I’ve always wanted to be a soldier. It’s my highest personal achievement.”

Lin, a former cadet captain from Flushing, recently completed a one year preparatory program at Marion Military Institute after graduating from high school.

He said his “extreme patriotism” for his country and his Chinese-American pride pushed him to start a life of service.

“Since I’m here, I might as well fight for everyone who lives here,” he said. “I want to show that Chinese-Americans are not any less than anyone else. We’re just as strong. We can become great officers and leaders. I wanted to make my family proud.”

Nepogoda, a senior from Bellerose, said he was inspired to continue in the footsteps of his veteran grandfathers.

“They used to tell me stories about their service, stories about honor and how they were heroes. That really inspired me,” he said.

Nepogoda, a cadet first sergeant, is currently third in charge of a company of 200 students. He was also part of a Francis Lewis team that won first place in a recent Fort Dix competition that tested their mental and physical abilities.

“He gives 200 percent,” said coach and retired Master Sgt. Peter Rompf. “I’m proud. They were both good role models for the team.”

The pair leaves for six weeks of basic training in July before they begin their academic year. They will spend five years in active duty and four years in the reserves after graduating in 2017.

“I’ve wanted to go to West Point since about eighth grade,” Nepogoda said. “When I got accepted, I just couldn’t help but think how weird it is how quickly dreams can come true.”

 

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