Ohio teen reaches out to military veterans

by .
Stripes Korea

Connor Thomas, 15, grew up loving everything about the military. The uniforms. The mission. The call to duty. He respected the men and women who defended their country, and learned that some struggled when they left service.

So the Ohio teenager set out to do something about it. Fundraisers, speeches and a personalized website followed. Check out his exploits at www.myclermontmilitaryheroes.com.

He’s making a difference in the lives of veterans and has sights on pursuing his own military career.

Stars and Stripes asked this young leader what motivates him and what the future holds.

Name: Connor Reed Thomas
Age/grade/school: 15/Sophomore/Goshen Local Schools
Hometown: Loveland, OH
Hobbies/sports: I am a sports nut. My dad is a teacher and coach and I grew up standing on college football sidelines and doing everything physical my parents would allow.

Q. Connor, you were recently a guest speaker at a Vietnam Veteran's Association meeting in your hometown. Tell us how that came about and give us some insight into some of your other endeavors.
A. The gentleman who works at our Veterans Services Center is a member of about every military organization there is and is a decorated soldier, his name is Howard Daugherty.  He and I email consistently about everything military and he has truly helped open doors for me. He wanted me to speak at the meeting about the recent $1,245 I delivered to the DAV National Office and my involvement with military events in our community, and to discuss my charity work at The Joseph House, a 501(c)(3) homeless vet shelter and outpatient drug facility. I still have two full years of high school and currently I spend a portion of each day preparing to attend a service academy.   I make sure my GPA is well over 4.0, now it is 4.308, take the most honors and AP courses possible, find every opportunity to be a leader, and use ACT practice materials daily to be confident while taking the test. There are things I like about all academies. I'll keep an open mind and attend a couple Academy Days this April and challenge myself to keep an open mind.

Q. Your two grandfathers served in the military, as did your great grandfather. Have they been a big influence in your life in terms of the work you have done for veterans?
A. I have a great respect for vets and given they were both vets there is more of a connection. My great grandfather was a grunt of a soldier and from what I am told displayed a rather similar charm as a family man. I have some of his traits, no doubt. I love my paternal grandfather, but he was in Hawaii for his four years during the late fifties and didn't have it too bad. As far as the vets go, I am just drawn to them because I respect them. They answered the call when it came, no matter the consequences. I will gladly defend their rights and do what I can to make them feel appreciated.

Q. How do you balance the schoolwork, athletics, running a website and all of the charity work?
A. My dad is my administrative assistant and best friend. I lean on him for a lot of tasks and my mom is always there to help prepare me for tests or speeches. The rest are things all top-notch student-athletes endure, I just try and manage my time so there is enough effort to go around. Also, I am driven by the service academy life. I figure my toughest high school day will be a typical day on campus.

Q. What drives you to do what you do?
A. The biggest motivator for me is to be at the top of whatever I do. Intrinsically, I know what efforts equal success, so I try and stay one step ahead. I also want to be a soldier and my path is narrow and concentrated, making effort all the more important.

Q What advice would you give to other young people who have a cause they want to back?
A. Anything worth doing is worth doing right. My parents are highly educated and successful and have never settled for anything than my best, but intrinsic motivation has never been a problem. We are only here for so long, so if you are passionate about something, dive in. There is no substitute for hard work.

Q. What does the future hold for Connor Thomas?
A. I will continue to achieve academically and athletically to ensure an appointment to a service academy. I have no career desire other than a full military career. I would like to study behavioral sciences and psychology. I would like to study at a war college and spend most of my career at The Joint Command/DOD level of intelligence. Right now, I'll settle for being a cadet in 2017.

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