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ROTC cadet earns prestigious Bronze Cross Award

All the camera flashes seemed to catch Shamai Larsen off guard. The Austin Peay State University Army ROTC cadet stared at the floor as Col. Mark Mitchell, commander of the 5th Special Forces Group, pinned the Legion of Valor Associations Bronze Cross of Achievement on her uniform.

I am truly honored to be here to get the chance to see Cadet Larsen, he said.

Thats a pretty big compliment coming from someone as esteemed as Mitchell, but Larsen has earned the praise. On Oct. 1, she became the first APSU student ever to receive the Bronze Cross of Achievement Award. All the camera flashes seemed to catch Shamai Larsen off guard. The Austin Peay State University Army ROTC cadet stared at the floor as Col. Mark Mitchell, commander of the 5th Special Forces Group, pinned the Legion of Valor Association's Bronze Cross of Achievement on her uniform.

“I am truly honored to be here to get the chance to see Cadet Larsen,” he said.

That's a pretty big compliment coming from someone as esteemed as Mitchell, but Larsen has earned the praise. On Oct. 1, she became the first APSU student ever to receive the Bronze Cross of Achievement Award.

“This award, presented only to eight cadets nationwide out of 4,500 in the Class of 2010, is given for overall excellence in Army ROTC, spanning academics, ROTC performance and extracurricular activities,” Lt. Col. Greg Lane, executive officer of the University's ROTC program, said.

Larsen is a member of the Army's Green-to-Gold program, meaning she entered APSU from an active duty-enlisted military career to earn the college diploma she needs to become an Army officer. She has a 4.0 GPA in the College of Health and Human Performance, and she is a runner on the women's cross country team and indoor and outdoor track teams.

The Legion of Valor Association is made up of the recipients of the nation's two highest combat awards — the Medal of Honor and the Army's Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross or the Air Force Cross. The association's Bronze Cross of Achievement is one of the highest honors an Army ROTC cadet can achieve.

Larsen had no idea she was the recipient of this prestigious award until her name was called during the impromptu award ceremony. A room full of cadets applauded as she made her way uneasily to the front podium. Photographers crowded around her and snapped pictures while Mitchell presented her with the award.

“I'm really nervous right now,” she said. Larsen, however, quickly regained the leadership skills that helped her earn this award. She looked up and faced her fellow cadets seated before her and said, “I do hope this does motivate some of the junior cadets just to try and do your best in ROTC because it does pay off.” -- Charles Booth