Even when days seemed to linger on and exhaustion set in, a Papillion-La Vista South High School student never gave up and made history in the process.
For the first time in PLVS history, a Navy Junior ROTC commanding officer is recognized for his hard work and earned the Legion of Valor Bronze Cross Award.
Senior Luke Sumpter was among 22 recipients nationwide to receive the award based on scholastic achievements in academic grades and military coursework.
“This is probably the biggest honor I will ever receive in high school and college probably,” Sumpter said.
PLVS JROTC instructor Carl Lewandowski nominated Sumpter for the award last year for his impressive leadership skills and community involvement.
“We sent it off hopeful,” Lewandowski said. “It’s like a lottery ticket, you buy it and hope you win but if nothing comes of it, that’s OK, too.”
While maintaining a 4.0 GPA, Sumpter is a member of the Papillion Mayor’s Youth Leadership Council, superintendent’s advisory council, National Honor Society and the district’s Health Academy. He is vice president of the Midlands Hospital Health Occupations Students of America, a platoon commanding officer and the Armed Drill Team commander.
In addition to that, he is an Eagle Scout, a second-degree black belt in taekwondo and volunteers at his church – Calvary Christian – and logged more than 100 volunteer hours at Hillcrest Mable Rose.
“It’s well deserved,” Lewandowski said. “He does an outstanding job in his academics and all the other things we expect high school students to do on a daily basis.”
With a full plate of activities, Sumpter said he often grew tired, but that didn’t stop him.
“The worst thing you can do is give up and not come back,” he said.
For him, keeping the end in mind always kept him motivated. Sometimes, he said, he wanted to quit an activity or go home and sleep for 16 hours straight.
“If I were to do that, what would happen to the team?” he said. “Life is just a bunch of ups and downs. Even if you’re in a down right now, it’s going to come up eventually, so might as well keep going.”
When Sumpter learned about the award a few weeks ago, he said he was surprised.
“What did I ever do to put myself up for this? I’m just trying to live my high school life and just do the best I can in ROTC and my school because I know this kind of stuff is carried on,” he said.
After high school, Sumpter plans to enlist in the Navy to carry on his family’s military traditions.
His grandparents and dad were in the Air Force, his brother is in the Air Force and his other brother was in the Army.
“There’s a lot of military influence to where, even from an early age, I just felt like I had an obligation,” he said.
He said he chose the Navy because of the job opportunities in that branch.
To others looking to achieve such a high honor, Lewandowski said he encourages them to work continuously.
“The number one thing is consistence in performance overtime. Sumpter didn’t get it over night,” he said. “That’s the key whether you want to do anything in the military or in life.”