Three students slain in the Parkland school shooting have received posthumous medals of heroism and one was buried with it pinned to the chest of his Junior ROTC uniform Tuesday, the Army’s Cadet Command said.
Peter Wang, 15, was buried in his cadet uniform, complete with the medal, and a second “keepsake” medal was given to his family, said U.S. Army Cadet Command spokesman Michael Maddox.
Wang was wearing the uniform for the Junior Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, JROTC, when the gunman walked into his high school building wielding an assault rifle. The Brooklyn native died holding open the door so his classmates could escape. And in a salute to “this brave young man,” the U.S. Military Academy at West Point announced separately that Wang was posthumously admitted to the Class of 2025, because it had been his “lifetime goal.”
“West Point has given posthumous offers of admissions in very rare instances for those candidates or potential candidate’s whose actions exemplified the tenets of Duty, Honor and Country,” the academy said in a statement Wednesday. The honor was so rare, in fact, West Point was unable to say the last time it had happened.
Maddox said the family of Alaina Petty, 14, was given her medal at the freshman’s funeral at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Coral Springs on Monday, and the family of freshman Martin Duque, 14, will be presented with one at Saturday’s funeral.
A Department of the Army website described the medal as “a U.S. military decoration awarded by the Department of the Army to a JROTC cadet who performs an act of heroism. The achievement must be an accomplishment so exceptional and outstanding that it clearly sets the individual apart from fellow students or from other persons in similar circumstances. The performance must have involved the acceptance of danger and extraordinary responsibilities, exemplifying praiseworthy fortitude and courage.”
More school cadets may get awards as well, said Maddox in an email from Fort Knox. “However, the immediate focus right now is on supporting the funerals with dignity and honor, so deserved by these Cadets and their families.”
Gov. Rick Scott also announced Tuesday that he had asked the Florida National Guard to attend the funerals of the three students, “paying respect to these JROTC members, their families and loved ones.”
In the instances of Petty and Duque, Florida Guard spokesman Will Manley said, that meant providing a tri-folded flag for a cadet commander to present to the teenagers’ families. For Wang’s funeral, the Guard sent a bugler to play Taps and an honor guard team to do a flag-folding ceremony, but no rifle volleys.
“We’re not actually doing full military honors,” Manley explained. “What we’re doing is, we’re helping the Junior ROTC cadets from that school put on something that has a military flavor to it. But it’s not an actual military honors funeral.”
Miami Herald reporter Alex Harris contributed to this article.
See the West Point announcement here.