Peter Wang died in his military uniform, holding a door and helping people escape. He was 15 years old, a high school student who loved JROTC and dreamed of one day going to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
On Tuesday, at his funeral, a U.S. Army captain gave Wang’s parents a letter admitting him to the class of 2025.
It was a rare honor from the military academy, and one that brought both tears and a measure of comfort Tuesday to some of those who mourned Wang and the other 16 people killed when a man opened fire last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
Wang did not run when the shooting began, classmates said afterward, but helped others get to safety.
It meant a lot to the community to have some inspiration in the midst of the tragedy, said Chad Maxey, who heads a local chapter of West Point alumni. Wang’s story reminded them “how incredible our young people are, willing to stand up and embody the values of our men and women in uniform, to protect others. That’s what Peter Wang means to our community.”
Maxey, who was contacted by another veteran after hearing that Wang aspired to go to West Point, reached out to leaders at the academy. He said many JROTC, veterans and service members attended the ceremonies Tuesday. After serving in the U.S. Army for a decade, with time in both Iraq and Afghanistan, Maxey has been to a lot of memorials, but he said this was one of the hardest. “It was clear from his classmates and the other members in JROTC with him that this was the type of person he was; they weren’t surprised he would take this kind of action” to save people. “He really did want to serve others in uniform.”
Academy spokesman Francis DeMaro Jr. shared a statement Tuesday: “The U.S. Military Academy wants to pass on our deepest condolences to the Wang family and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School community.
“Peter Wang, an Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadet at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, had a lifetime goal to attend USMA and was posthumously offered admission for his heroic actions on Feb. 14, 2018.
“It was an appropriate way for USMA to honor this brave young man. 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.”
U.S. Army Capt. Shahin Uddin, who attended the funeral and presented the letter, declined to comment. Several of Wang’s family and close friends could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.
The funeral program, shared by a guest at the ceremony, described his love for JROTC, his dreams of West Point and his interests that are more common for high school freshmen: Playing basketball, seeing friends, watching the Houston Rockets, listening to hip-hop.
Lin Chen, Wang’s cousin, told The Washington Post last week that his mother had always taught him to be unselfish, to think of others first, and that he was a natural leader, the “big brother everyone wished they had.”
The Sun Sentinel reported that Gov. Rick Scott (R) asked the Florida National Guard to honor Wang and two of his classmates, also members of JROTC, at their funerals. The newspaper also quoted a petition for a full military service for Wang: “His selfless and heroic actions have led to the survival of dozens in the area. Wang died a hero, and deserves to be treated as such, and deserves a full honors military burial.”
Allyson Chiu contributed to this report.