Carson Lopez knows what he wants to do with his life, and he's known since middle school: He's headed for the military.
The only question back then was which branch. Now, it looks like it’s going to be the Navy.
Lopez, a 17-year-old Walden Grove High School senior, was recently appointed to the United States Naval Academy. Thanks to a Naval Academy Foundation scholarship, he'll attend the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, N.M., for a year and then head to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
When he graduates in 2023, he'll will be an officer with a five-year commitment.
Several factors influenced his decision to join.
His stepfather, grandfather and great-uncle served in the Air Force, prompting him to join the Sahuarita Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps four years ago. That same year, two NJROTC members were appointed to military academies.
“My commanding officers were outstanding leaders and outstanding people, and I thought if they were interested in going into those academies they must be awesome institutions,” Lopez said.
Lopez also discovered he enjoyed having a chain of command and being surrounded by a group of people willing to help others.
Lopez said he was incredibly impressed by NJROTC instructor Bradley Roberson, who spent more than 20 years in the Navy and once commanded the USS Cole. Lopez hopes to follow in his footsteps and become a surface warfare officer, trained extensively to maintain and operate ships, crews and systems.
“He’s never had anything but good things to say about the Navy,” Lopez said of Roberson. “He talks a lot about their professionalism and how tight-knit the community is. Plus, the mission they are carrying out is an admirable one. They deploy all over the world.”
Lopez has some insight as to what’s in store for him. Last year, he spent six days at the U.S. Naval Academy Summer Seminar in Annapolis and visited the New Mexico Military Institute over spring break.
While he's concerned about the possibility of international conflict in the future, he suspects that “knowing that you’re protecting people at home keeps you going in a situation like that,” Lopez said.
Walden Grove Principal Teresa Hill described Lopez as a “great kid” on campus and off.
“He’s a stellar student and a great leader,” she said. “I have no doubts he’ll go on and make an impact in our world.”
In addition to being the executive officer and academic team commander in the NJROTC, Lopez has been the tennis team captain for three years, is vice president of the Gift Club, and is a member of the Link Crew, which welcomes and guides freshmen on campus. He’s also the secretary of the National Honor Society and has a 4.38 gpa.
Before heading to New Mexico in late July, Lopez said he plans to spend time with family and working out.
Kim Smith | 547-9740