FHS NJROTC cadet among top in nation, receives Legion of Valor Bronze Cross

CADET COMMANDING officer Austin Beals, a senior at Fredericksburg High School, shows his Legion of Valor Bronze Cross for Achievement, received from retired Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Don Mason in a ceremony held at the school on Sept. 18. Beals has applied for admission to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. — Standard-Radio Post/Richard Zowie

By Richard Zowie— In his fourth and final year of the Fredericksburg High School Navy JROTC program, Cadet Commanding Officer Austin Beals has received the highest award a cadet can earn from an outside agency — the Legion of Valor Bronze Cross for Achievement.

The honor was presented to Beals at the FHS gymnasium on Wednesday, Sept. 18, by retired Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Don Mason.

“It was great and fantastic to win,” said Beals, whose parents were in the audience. “It began as a smaller event, but other people found out about it, and it turned into big event with a whole bunch of people here.”

Beals began serving as the JROTC’s commanding officer, a year-long position, on May 1.

He described most of the work behind earning the bronze cross as academic: all A’s and college classes. He has been a “consistent honor roll student”, according to Navy Captain (Ret.) George T. Fadok, who serves in the NJROTC as Senior Naval Science Instructor.

“It also requires a lot of getting involved in leadership,” said Beals. “There’s also community service, such as putting up flags and doing anything that can benefit the community.”

Fadok, who has served in the NJROTC for three years, said that Beals is the first FHS cadet during that time to receive the Bronze Cross. Fadok added that Beals may also be the first FHS student to receive the award; the FHS JROTC began in 2002.

“Cadet Austin Beals has been an outstanding leader since he arrived at Fredericksburg High School in 2010,” Fadok said. “His leadership, combined with his academic superiority and countless hours of community service and involvement in a multitude of activities in his high school career, were key factors in the determination of the Legion of Valor to select him for this prestigious award. I am proud of Austin for this selection, but more importantly, extremely proud of him for the daily example he sets for the other cadets in the unit.”

After high school, Beals plans to pursue a military career and start by attending one of the service academies. His first choice is U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he has already applied.

Mason is a member of the Legion of Valor, an organization comprised of the winners of the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross and the Air Force Cross. The master chief earned the Navy Cross in the Korean War in 1952 due to his actions administering first aid to wounded marines despite being under heavy enemy fire.

The Navy Cross is the second-highest medal a sailor or Naval officer can earn (the highest being the Medal of Honor).

Among the dignitaries present for the ceremony were U.S. Coast Guard Captain Deborah Dombeck (Ret.), president of the Hill Country Chapter of the Military Order of World Wars; Navy Commander Mike Hale (Ret.), the Naval JROTC Area 10 (Texas) Area Manager; Lela Pittenger, Central Texas Regional Director, Office of U.S. Senator Ted Cruz; Fredericksburg Independent School District Superintendent Marc Williamson.

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