NEWPORT, Maine — A Nokomis Regional High School senior was awarded JROTC’s highest honor on Thursday morning. She had no idea it was for her.
Stephanie Thomas of Plymouth was one of six out of 470,000 cadets across the country to receive the Legion of Valor Bronze Cross for Achievement during a ceremony at Nokomis High.
“I had no idea,” said Thomas. “Right before the whole assembly started, I caught my whole family in the guidance room. I’m just, ‘Um, I’m really worried about what’s going on now.’ Before that, I thought we were just doing a battalion formation in the gym.”
Maj. Gen. John Libby, adjutant general of the Maine National Guard, placed the pin on Thomas’ jacket.
Retired Col. Fred Umphrey, senior Army instructor for the Nokomis JROTC program, State Rep. Kenneth Fredette and Secretary of State Charles Summers also spoke during the ceremony.
“It’s a great honor to be able to present Ms. Thomas here this morning for what is truly a magnificent recognition of service and commitment, not just to her state, but to Stephanie’s country as well,” said Summers.
Fredette pointed to the recent bridge dedication to Newport’s Sgt. Sidney Skidgel, who died in Vietnam and was awarded the Medal of Honor.
“That’s the quality of people of this community and the quality of people all of you are,” said Fredette in front of a crowd of more than 800 students and teachers.
Thomas held in her emotions for part of the ceremony.
“I was a little nervous, like, ‘What am I supposed to do?’” Thomas said. “I just felt really good because everybody was proud of me. They had a whole assembly based around me. That’s pretty cool.”
She could no longer hold in her emotions when she saw her family.
“I saw my grandfather and it looked like he was crying. I had to cry after that,” she said.
Thomas’ father, Jim Thomas, served in the Navy for six years and had a tour of duty during Desert Storm. He was also an Eagle Scout.
“Stephanie works very, very hard and she committed herself to this program ever since she started,” said Jim Thomas. “She’s up at 4:30 in the morning and leaves to go to school at 5:30 and stays late every day after school. She’s made this very important to her life.
“She’s on the right road. She’s got a great future ahead of her,” he said. “I’m a happy dad.”
Thomas has a brother, Cody, who is in eighth grade, and an older sister, Brittany, who is a Nokomis graduate.
Pam Thomas, Stephanie’s mother, also commented about how proud she was of her daughter.
“She pushes herself,” she said. “When she was a freshman, she said ‘I’m just going to be a staff member.’ Next thing you know, she’s on the ROTC staff.
“In her sophomore year, she said ‘I’m going to be a battalion commander when I’m a senior,’” said Pam Thomas. “And she worked until she got that.”
Stephanie Thomas said she works hard now to better her future.
“So many kids think that high school doesn’t count, but it does,” she said. “The more I achieve now, the better off it’s going to help me later on.”