WOHS senior earns ROTC scholarship

Luca Hewett wrote a powerful essay about veterans that has garnered him $10,000 to further his education.

Photo courtesy TK Photography ~ Luca Hewett plans to attend the U.S. Naval Academy following graduation from West Orange High School.
Photo courtesy TK Photography ~ Luca Hewett plans to attend the U.S. Naval Academy following graduation from West Orange High School.
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West Orange High School senior Luca Hewett has been awarded a scholarship from the National Veteran Business Development Council after writing a 1,000-word essay on America’s military veterans. His family’s military history plus his writing skills have earned him $10,000 for tuition plus a laptop.

“Both of my grandfathers were in the military,” Hewett said. “My grandfather on dad’s side was in the Army, and then on my mom’s side, he was in the National Guard in New Jersey.”

Cadet Col.  Luca A. Hewett serves as the group commander of AFJROTC Unit FL-802. He directs and advises the group staff to complete the tasks and assignments given by Headquarters AFJROTC; Maj. Matthew Medlock, senior aerospace science instructor; and Senior Master Sgt. Shonda Spencer, aerospace science instructor.

“Luca has been the epitome of what we want from a JROTC leader and WOHS student,” Matt Turner, West Orange principal, said. “He has been an excellent role model for the younger cadets as a leader and student, and I couldn’t imagine a more deserving recipient of this scholarship.”

Hewett hopes to attend the U.S. Naval Academy. He received a nomination from Rep. Val Demings, as well as two from the National ROTC Unit, to apply for the Naval Academy.

He applied and was accepted into the 2020 summer session programs at the academy and the Boys State 2020 summer program.

Hewett joined the AFJROTC unit his freshman year and now is the special assistant to Medlock. During his four years at West Orange, he earned national awards — the American Veterans Award, Air Force Sergeants Association Award and the Air Force Association Award.

“They’re not monetary awards; they’re ribbons and medals you can wear on your uniform,” Hewett said. “One person from every unit is selected to get the award. … I have three currently.”

One was based on an essay, and the others were by recommendation from Medlock.

He has held many different group staff positions before becoming group commander.

During Hewett’s freshman year, he served as the executive officer assistant and later the executive non-commissioned officer in charge. Additionally, he was inducted into the Kitty Hawk Air Society during this year. Sophomore year, Hewett served as the executive NCOIC once more before serving as the command chief master sergeant.

During Hewett’s junior year, he served as the Color Guard commander, operations support squadron commander and Kitty Hawk Air Society president.

That same year, he served as the deputy group commander and group commander.

He is the son of Fred and Karyn Hewett, of Winter Garden.

The award was administered by Tom Wirbel, a disabled veteran of the U.S. Air Force who is part of the NVBDC State Manager Program. The purpose of the scholarship program, “For Those Who Served and Now Giving Back,” is to connect veterans with the younger generation to promote service to the country.

Wirbel is president of Powerhouse Two Inc. and has 40 years of experience in business management and business building. While serving in the military, Wirbel suffered an injury that nearly cost him his life. He is a Winter Garden resident.

The scholarship was issued to JROTC students in all 50 states.



By Luca Hewett

Former U.S. Rep. Steve Buyer once said, “America’s veterans embody the ideals upon which America was founded more than 229 years ago.”

America was founded on democracy, freedom and liberty, and veterans are the ones who sacrifice so much to protect these ideals. The word “veteran,” to Americans, elicits the thought of bravery, sacrifice, honor, commitment and patriotism; veterans are the backbone American independence and democracy. America celebrates its brave veterans.


Nov. 11 marks the day America celebrates its veterans on Veterans Day. Compared to other countries, America values and honors its veterans the most. Only a few other countries have their own dedicated “Veterans Day”-type holiday.

Veterans Day was originally viewed as celebrating World War I veterans but later went on to celebrating all past and present veterans. Orlando city celebrates its Veterans Day with a giant parade spanning across a chunk of the city.

U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski stated, “On this Veterans Day, let us remember the service of our veterans, and let us renew our national promise to fulfill our sacred obligations to our veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much so that we can live free.”

Rep. Lipinski explains that Veterans Day is U.S. citizens’ way of saying thank you to all the veterans. It is important that we, as citizens, honor this holiday to recognize it and remember the veterans that support our basic American and human rights: “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Without our veterans’ and servicemembers’ sacrifices, the United States would be devoid of freedom and nothing like it is today. This shows why Veterans Day is such an impactful holiday; it allows American citizens to show thanks to our veterans for all their sacrifice and courage.

Veterans are the epitome of patriotism and loyalty to America. Veterans are willing to lay down their lives to protect American liberties and the democracy the Founding Fathers have shaped. These men and women swear to protect the Constitution at all costs; they treat it like it is their own kin. Veterans understood the moment they enlisted or commissioned that they were risking their life so others could sleep without fear.

Former President Ronald Reagan once said: “We remember those who were called upon to give all a person can give, and we remember those who were prepared to make that sacrifice if it were demanded of them in the line of duty, though it never was. Most of all, we remember the devotion and gallantry with which all of them ennobled their nation as they became champions of a noble cause.”

This quote by former President Reagan really explains how veterans are making their sacrifices with their own free will.

Serving in the armed forces in America is voluntary, and when former President Reagan said, “… demanded of them in the line of duty, though it never was,” he means that even though their service was needed, it was still voluntary and not forced.

Without veterans, there would be no United States of America; we would most likely be a colony of Britain still.

Reporter Elmer Davis once explained, “This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.”

Davis is illustrating how important veterans are to the American way of life. Veterans show time after time that they are one of the bravest and most resilient crowds in America. Being able to endure physically and mentally straining training and then actual service is mind-boggling to the average American. Pledging your life to protect America from foreign or domestic enemies is not a light task for someone to undertake.

Veterans understood that they must make the sacrifices they do to protect the American way of life. It is no easy task for these men and women to go from honorably serving their country every day and sticking to an exact schedule. Many veterans experience various mental issues after trying to filter back into society. It is our duty as citizens to make sure the wellbeing of our nation’s veterans is a top priority.

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, “An estimated 22 veterans commit suicide in the United States every day.” A United States citizen seeing that statistic should be absolutely shocked to know that a veteran takes their own life every 65 minutes. As citizens, we must assist the programs that seek to cut this number down.

Former First Lady Barbara Bush said: “Well, look at what people are doing for returned veterans now. The wounded warriors. They're working hard to make the wounded veterans feel that they are loved and welcomed home, unlike Vietnam. It was not a very kind, gentle world then. I think we are kinder and gentler.”

These programs First Lady Barbara Bush is talking about are crucial to fight these horrible statistics. Working to combat these veterans’ death statistics is the ultimate goal an American patriot should have. Veterans have served our country, so it is our job to now serve them.

Former President Barack Obama explained once: "It's about how we treat our veterans every single day of the year. It's about making sure they have the care they need and the benefits that they've earned when they come home. It's about serving all of you as well as you've served the United States of America."

As I stated before, our veterans served our nation and now it is our turn to serve them and help them battle the strenuous times they are having. It is imperative as citizens that we safeguard this important minority in our American culture. No doubt, veterans have shaped Americas past and will continue to shape its future. Veterans past and present have strongly impacted America and the American people through their military service to our great and free nation.



Amy Quesinberry

Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.

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