Massengill prepared for appointment to West Point

RIPLEY — The United States Military Academy at West Point has produced some of the finest leaders this country has ever known. Their extensive list of alumni is filled with former Presidents of the United States, governors, and astronauts as well as a slew of Rhodes Scholars and Medal of Honor winners. Four years from now, Ripley native Lawrence Massengill will have his name added to the prominent list. In March, Massengill was awarded a $350,000 scholarship to attend the military academy where the motto is Duty, Honor, Country. Attending West Point is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. For Massengill, the process to obtain a scholarship began three years ago when he was a sophomore at Ripley High School. “I’ve always wanted to serve my country in some way. Ever since I can remember, it’s always been about the Red, White, and Blue with me,” said Massengill. “I began to think about going to an academy when I was the 10th grade. My teacher at the time, Fred Smith, graduated from West Point and he introduced the idea to me. “He got me to thinking about it and then we started going to Academy Days–where they had booths set up from all the academies. As soon as I really started looking into it I knew that’s what I wanted to do. Smith (West Point class of 1971) took Massengill to the Academy Days at high schools in Oxford and Hattiesburg. He said he could tell from being around his student that he was West Point material. “I taught algebra to Lawrence and seeing him around the school, he impressed me,” said Smith. “He seemed like he had the caliber of someone that would do well at West Point. “I’m just so proud of him because he’s such a humble person and a fine Christian. He’s got a lot of potential and I believe he’ll do very well.” Highly selective The process for Massengill’s entry into West Point was three years in the making and the process is highly selective. Potential cadets must produce in three distinct areas—leadership, academics, and athletics. Massengill excelled in all three. Along with being an Eagle Scout, during his days at Ripley High School, he was a member of Fellowship of Christian Athletes, where he served on the leadership team. He was twice voted class favorite, served as Student Government Association President, and was a member of the Teenage Republicans. Academically, Massengill finished fourth in his high school class with a 4.11 GPA and scored a 27 on his ACT. In athletics, Massengill was a four-year Tiger Letterman in football and was selected as Co-Captain for the 2008 season. He also played varsity baseball. Along with having a stellar career in high school, he also needed at least one nomination from a United States Congressman. Massengill received three—one each from Sen. Roger Wicker, Sen. Thad Cochran, and Rep. Travis Childers. Massengill finished the long application process in late January of this year and on March 26, he received the phone call he had been waiting for. It came from Steve Guyton, a representative from Sen. Wicker’s office who told him he had won the scholarship. “When he gave me the news, I was just overjoyed,” said Massengill. “My mom was standing right beside me at the time and she was in tears. It was a lot of hard work, but I all paid off.” The number of applications that the academy received this year shows how competitive the selection is. Of the 13,500 that competed for an appointment, only 2,500 made it through the nomination phase and of those, only 1,150 were selected to receive an appointment. According to the USMA website, Only 12.75% of applicants were admitted (total of 1292) to the Class of 2012. When asked how it felt to be one of the chosen few, Massengill humbly responded, “I know I’m very blessed by God and it feels great.” In the army now Massengill leaves for West Point June 29. Upon arrival, he will begin seven weeks of Cadet Basic Training. His only contact with anyone outside of the college for those seven weeks will have to be by mail. Homesickness is listed as one of the main problems for incoming cadets. Masengill said he is excited about the opportunity but knows leaving the town he grew up in won’t be an easy task. “I’ve been to camps that lasted a week, but I’ve never been away for as long as I’ll be away at West Point but I’m ready,” said Massengill. “I’ve talked to other cadets who said that homesickness will set in and I’m sure I’ll miss Ripley, but I’m ready and I look forward to the challenge.” After the seven-week basic training, classes will begin Aug. 17 and the experience of normal college life will begin. Massengill won’t be coming home a lot, but he will get the breaks that most college students get. He said he would get four days for Thanksgiving, two weeks for Christmas, 10 days for Spring Break, and three weeks of summer vacation. After four years, he will have earned a Bachelors of Science degree. After graduation he will enter the United States Army as a 2nd Lieutenant and serve for at least five years. Lawrence is the son of Michael & Lisa Massengill. He has one brother, Taylor and a sister Whitney. USMA Field Representative A.M. Zeidman traveled to Ripley to present Masengill with his scholarship. Below is an excerpt from his speech: For those of you who may not know, West Point Graduates have served our country for over two centuries. They have provided the nation with military leaders such as Generals Grant, Lee, Patton, Eisenhower, MacArthur, and Schwarzopf and in Operation Iraqi Freedom, General David Petraeus. Indeed, at West Point, it is said that much of the history we teach was made by those we taught. This year over 13,500 highly qualified students from across the country competed for an appointment to West Point. With so many applicants and only 1,150 cadetships available, the admissions committee was very selective. West Point demands a particular kind of student…one who is strongly motivated, physically fit, and possesses high academic ability. U.S. News and World Report’s rating of colleges and universities has consistently rated West Point as the toughest school to get into. It ranks alongside Harvard, Princeton, and Yale with the most Rhodes Scholarship winners. Upon graduation with a bachelor of science degree from West Point, Lawrence Massengill will be commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army to serve proudly in the tradition of ‘Duty, Honor, Country.’ At this time, it gives me great pleasure to award one of these prestigious scholarships to a deserving Ripley High School Student. On behalf of the President of the United States, Barack Obama, West Point Superintendent Frank Hagenbeck and United States Senator Roger Wicker, I am pleased to award this appointment to the United State Military Academy at West Point, New York, worth over $350,000, to Lawrence Michael Massengill, Jr.

Kedrick Storey/Southern Sentinel