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In life, he dreamed of becoming a soldier. In death, he was honored with an invitation to join their ranks.
Fifteen-year-old Peter Wang, who was killed while trying to help classmates escape from a gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, was posthumously accepted to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point on Tuesday “for his heroic actions on Feb. 14, 2018” and then buried in his Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) uniform.
Wang, the U.S. Military Academy said in a statement, “had a lifetime goal to attend USMA.”
“It was an appropriate way for USMA to honor this brave young man,” it read. “West Point has given posthumous offers of admission in very rare instances for those candidates or potential candidate’s (sic) whose actions exemplified the tenets of Duty, Honor and Country.”
Wang would have been in the Class of 2025, a West Point spokesman said.
The letter was hand-delivered to Wang’s parents by a uniformed Army officer at the funeral home in Coral Springs, Florida, where a gut-wrenching funeral was held as grieving relatives wept beside the slain teenager’s open casket.
When the shooting started at the high school in Parkland, the Brooklyn, N.Y.-born cadet yanked open a door that allowed dozens of classmates, teachers and staffers to escape, officials said. But as he stood at his post in his JROTC uniform and held the door open, Wang was shot and killed — one of the 17 students and staffers who died in the school that day.
“For as long as we remember him, he is a hero,” classmate Jared Burns told NBC Miami.
“He was like a brother to me and possibly one of the kindest people I ever met,” longtime friend Xi Chen added.
Gov. Rick Scott has directed the Florida National Guard to honor Wang, who was a freshman, and two other JROTC members who were killed — Alaina Petty, 14, and Martin Duque, 14.
Also, a petition calling on Congress to give Wang a full military funeral had collected nearly 70,000 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon, some 30,000 short of the 100,000 needed to get a response from the White House.
“Wang died a hero, and deserves to be treated as such, and deserves a full honors military burial,” the petition states.