Missouri military foundation honors JROTC students killed in school shooting

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COLUMBIA - The United States Exercise Tiger Foundation has sent three Medals of Combat Valor to honor the Junior ROTC students killed in the Parkland school shooting. Witnesses said Peter Wang, Alaina Petty and Martin Duque all died helping fellow students escape.

"We feel that to recognize their valor and to recognize their intrepid deeds is very very important," said USTF National Executive Director Susan Haines

She said this is the first time in the foundation's 30 years, that they have awarded a Medal of Combat Valor to a JROTC member.

Haines' daughter served in the U.S. Army. She said knowing the sacrifices her daughter made, the bravery of the JROTC students left her speechless.

"It gives a mother a very heavy heart to see that other mothers have lost there children in the line of duty, and knowing that my daughter could have been in those shoes," she said.

Haines said moments like these remind her of the emotions she felt when she spoke to her daughter who was deployed in Iraq.

"We would hear bullets going off in the background," she said. "It was fear that you couldn't go back to sleep at night. It was a very difficult time and I know it's a very difficult time for the parents of those cadets whose children have stood in the line of danger."

Senior Master Sgt. Andrew Van Houten was in charge of taking the medals back to his Air Force base. He said he asked for the assignment because of his son, who is in JROTC.

"He said 'Dad you have to do this,'" Van Houten said. "All while knowing I was going to anyways."

A box containing the medals and plaques will be transported from Columbia to Parkland via a military honor flight, in an operation called "Intrepid Eagle."

A senior sergeant will escort the box the entire time. It will take about a week for the medals to complete their journey to Florida.

The Exercise Tiger Foundation is asking for donations for future military programs and projects.