Twice in the span of one week, students with dreams of joining the U.S. military have been on the front lines against school shooters in the U.S., risking their lives and oftentimes losing them in the process.
We saw the most recent example on Tuesday, when high school senior Brendan Bialy “assisted in subduing” a shooter at STEM School Highlands Ranch in Colorado.
Bialy is currently a poolee in the Marine Corps Delayed Entry Program, Marine Capt. Michael Maggitti, 8th Marine Corps District, Marine Corps Recruiting Command confirmed to Task & Purpose.
Maggitti said in a statement that Bialy's “courage and commitment to swiftly ending this tragic incident at the risk of his own safety is admirable and inspiring.” Bialy is scheduled to ship to recruit training this summer, per Maggitti.
Another heroic student who rushed the shooter, Kendrick Ray Castillo, was killed in the shooting.
Less than a week before the Highlands Ranch shooting, Army ROTC cadet Riley Howell was killed after tackling and restraining a shooter at the University of North Carolina Charlotte.
The Charlotte-Mecklenberg Police Department Chief Kerr Putney told the New York Times that if he hadn't acted, “the assailant may not have been disarmed.” He was buried with military honors.
Bialy and Howell are part of a growing fraternity of military hopefuls caught in the line of fire too early.
Last year, in February 2018, three JROTC cadets were killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida: Peter Wang, 15, Alaina Petty, 14, and Martin Duque, 13.
Other JROTC students at Stoneman Douglas protected dozens of students from the shooting with Kevlar sheets.
This is not a purely recent trend: Air Force ROTC Cadet Matthew La Porte sacrificed his life in an attempt to save his classmates in the Virginia Tech shooting. He was posthumously awarded the Airman's Medal in 2015.
“Cadet La Porte, with complete disregard for his own safety, unhesitatingly charged the shooter in an aggressive attempt to stop him,” his Airman's Medal citation, which was provided to Air Force Times, reads. “Cadet La Porte's actions helped save lives by slowing down the shooter and by taking fire that would have been directed at his classmates. He sacrificed his own life in an attempt to save others.”
We should be both grateful and honored that heroes like these aspired to serve in our nation's armed forces overseas — and deeply ashamed that so many of their lives were taken here on U.S. soil before they ever got the chance.