A 15-year-old Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School freshman who, dressed in his JROTC uniform, died while holding a door open so his fellow classmates could escape a gunman with an assault rifle, has been posthumously admitted to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
One of Peter Wang’s life goals was to attend West Point. Though that dream died on Feb. 14 with Wang and 16 of his classmates and teachers, officials at West Point offered him admission to the prestigious program on Tuesday, the day of his funeral.
Officials took to West Point’s Facebook page to honor Wang, who they said lost his life in service to others.
“The U.S. Military Academy honors Peter Wang with an honorary admission for his bravery and selflessness,” the post read. “One of West Point's priorities is to develop leaders of character who are committed to the values of duty, honor, and country. Peter Wang's actions on February 14th are an example of those very principles and for this reason, the academy honors his dream of being a West Point cadet with a 2025 letter of acceptance.”
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“It was an appropriate way for USMA to honor this brave young man,” an official statement from West Point’s public affairs office stated. “West Point has given posthumous offers of admissions in very rare instances for those candidates or potential candidates whose actions exemplified the tenets of duty, honor and country.”
The statement also offered the officials’ deepest condolences to Wang’s family and the Stoneman Douglas community.
Wang has also been awarded the JROTC Medal of Heroism, along with two of his fellow slain freshmen. The Miami Herald reported that Wang would be buried with the medal pinned to his chest.
“It’s my understanding that this is an open casket service and the family requested their son be buried in his JROTC uniform,” U.S. Army Cadet Command spokesman Michael Maddox told the Herald. “The JROTC heroism medal will be on his uniform, but a second ‘keepsake’ medal will be given to the family.”
Maddox told the newspaper that Alaina Petty’s family received her medal Monday at the 14-year-old’s funeral, held at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Coral Springs. The family of Martin Duque, also 14, will be presented with his metal at his funeral on Saturday.
Like Wang, Petty and Duque were members of Stoneman Douglas’s JROTC program.
JROTC.com indicates that the Medal of Heroism is a “U.S. military decoration given by the Department of the Army to a JROTC cadet who performs a heroic act.
“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 website states. “The performance must have involved the acceptance of danger and extraordinary responsibilities, exemplifying praiseworthy fortitude and courage.”
Maddox told the Herald that additional cadets at Stoneman Douglas may receive awards for courageous actions they took the day of the massacre. For example, junior Colton Haab and other cadets, upon hearing gunshots, ushered several dozen students into the JROTC room.
The cadets grabbed Kevlar sheets used for marksmanship practice and held them up in front of their terrified classmates to shield them from bullets.
“We took those sheets and we put them in front of everybody so they weren’t seen, because they were behind a solid object and the Kevlar would slow the bullet down,” Colton told CNN the day after the shooting. “I didn’t think it was going to stop it, but it would definitely slow it down to make it from a catastrophic to a lifesaving thing.”
“However, the immediate focus right now is on supporting the funerals with dignity and honor, so deserved by these cadets and their families,” Maddox told the Herald.
Wang became one of the heroes in the shooting after witnesses reported that he held open doors for several other students to flee the gunfire coming from the AR-15 in the hands of accused gunman Nikolas Cruz. Cruz, 19, a former Stoneman Douglas student who was expelled last year, has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.
Wang’s friends and supporters established a White House petition seeking full military honors for his burial. By Tuesday afternoon, more than 66,000 people had signed the petition.
A petition must reach 100,000 signatures to get a response from the White House.