Smith Earns ROTC Scholarship
"Are you sitting down?" asked Major Condon, one of the top military personnel with the ROTC unit at University of Central Arkansas."
"Yes, Sir," replied a suddenly nervous Hunter Smith, a senior at Nettleton High School in Jonesboro.
"You got the Big One. Congratulations!"
The Big One refers to the United States Army ROTC scholarship, which pays for three years of tuition, fees, expenses, books plus a stipend for assuming a leadership role in the ROTC program on campus. This oft-called "full ride" begins at the sophomore classification which Hunter will reach within one semester of being enrolled at UCA. The official letter postmarked from Fort Knox sealed the deal and Hunter began with phone calls to mom, Jeania Burns, and family members, including Joe and Gail Burns, grandparents from Rector, and Frank and Sue Smith, grandparents formerly from Piggott and now living in Batesville.
The big one did not get away from Hunter, as he tells it, because he and his dad, PHS grad Jason Smith, had been talking and praying about such a decision. Hunter applied through the competitive program for the ROTC Scholarship along with approximately 25,000 other seniors across the nation. The intense scrutiny whittled the group to the 4,000 national winners. UCA had but one of these major awards to offer and Hunter Smith rose to the top.
The application process contains numerous hurdles that must be cleared one step at a time, including a certified physical fitness component. "Stressful," is how Hunter described the multiple months required to navigate the course and reach the final leg of the competition, the opportunity for a face-to-face interview.
With determination to have the college experience and degree program elevate his chances for continued success into adulthood, Hunter focused on the U.S. Military as a "huge open door of opportunity," becoming a commissioned officer upon graduation. His focused application required that he "demonstrate his experiences in high school and how he has made a positive contribution to not only his school but his community," according to Army ROTC literature.
Hunter has used every challenge, every avenue open to him, growing as a Christian young man. His work as a letterman throughout high school in multiple sports, with football and baseball his favorites, has afforded him ample chances to improve his leadership skills. "I'm not much for talk," he confides. "It's action that tells the tale. Teens don't listen to a lot of words, but pay attention to example." That's why Hunter says he prefers that leadership style, living out his Christian convictions wherever he finds himself. He has a younger brother, Beau Smith, and while admitting they squabble like all brothers, Hunter says he hopes Beau sees the "right stuff in me, his big brother."
Hunter's work in high school and his parents' careers offered openings in local scholarship programs through 5A Coaches and Administrators Scholarships and the Fraternal Order of Police Scholarships. He applied for both and feels confident that they will come through. Hunter couples hard work and athletics with a heart for service.
While a junior, he and several other athletes noticed the lack of a Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter at their high school and took it upon themselves to charter the group at Nettleton. It is an active club and played host to a multi-county youth ministry conference entitled Fields of Faith. Hunter shares that he also goes to the junior high and leads their student athlete group to grow them into FCA membership upon their freshman year.
This spirit of service and a heart for helping his fellow man led Hunter to begin considering the military as a career goal well over two years ago. He states that he became "dead set" on that path when he began to view the military as an additional way to witness and help other people. His military goals include Special Forces, Army Ranger, and Green Beret, not for personal glory, but so that he could be part of a team that takes care of other soldiers, perhaps risking himself to protect others whose very lives would depend on him and his highly trained fellow officers. His service requirement is a minimum eight years, beginning as a second lieutenant. "No problem," says Hunter, since his ultimate goal is a military career.
During this summer, Hunter will join a multi-generational task force led by Greg Rainwater, an assistant principal in the Jonesboro area. Rainwater invited Hunter to join the mission trip to Uganda. "I'm so excited."
He's also "excited" about a Boston "guy trip" with his dad to see "a couple of Red Sox games and do some tourist things." He'll watch his favorite second baseman and enjoy the historic city later in the summer. Hunter declares, and it's visible in his eyes and smile, "I'm excited about life. Every new experience comes from God and I learn and enjoy--I embrace it all."
Hunter points to Psalms 34:10 as his verse of inspiration and makes certain "all credit goes to God." He also shared a quote from Instagram, one he embraces-"I thank God for protecting me from what I thought I wanted and blessing me with what I didn't know I needed."
Hunter Smith is a young man mature beyond his 18 years, a young man influenced by a supportive family, good friends, and above all, a personal faith and walk with God which motivates him to look beyond himself.