WEIRTON - The Young Marines youth organization has named its Division 1 Young Marine of the Year - Young Marine Sgt. Maj. Austin Loppe, the 16-year-old son of Angela Loppe and Bill Goodrich of Mingo Junction.
A junior at Indian Creek High School, he is a member of the Tri-State Young Marines in Weirton under the command of Sgt. Raymond Barth III and executive officer Gabriel Arlia, master gunnery sergeant.
Loppe joined the Young Marines more than four years ago and "loves the many opportunities the program has given him to give back to his community while engaging other youth and veterans across the nation," according to a news release.
As the Division 1 Young Marine of the Year, Loppe has been invited to travel to Guam and Iwo Jima for the annual Reunion of Honor trip. He will join the five other division winners named Young Marine of the Year; the two winners of the Young Marines' annual Jimmie Trimble scholarship; the national Young Marine of the Year Young Marine Sgt. Maj. Dakota Richter; and Mike Kessler, national director and chief executive officer of the Young Marines.
The Young Marines organization is divided into six divisions across the United States. Each Young Marine goes through a series of selection processes starting at the unit level, going through battalion, regiment and on to the division. At the division level, the packages (portfolios) of the final candidates are reviewed for consideration.
Annually, one Young Marine of the Year is selected from each division. The divisional winners will be awarded monetary scholarships and will lead/represent their divisions until another Division Young Marine of the Year is selected. From these six winners, only one will be named the national "Young Marine of the Year" to be announced in June.
Competition for National Young Marine of the Year is highly competitive, and the six finalists are "the best of the best in the country," the news release notes. Qualities the committee is looking for are that of maturity, poise and confidence, accomplishment and achievements - in and outside the Young Marines program - proven leadership skills, and ability to speak in front of large groups about the Young Marines program to be a positive and influential representative of the program.
Kessler personally calls each division winner to congratulate her or him and extends the invitation to travel to Guam and Iwo Jima for the annual Reunion of Honor trip.
The Young Marines is a national nonprofit 501c(3) youth education and service program for boys and girls, age 8 through the completion of high school. The Young Marines promotes the mental, moral and physical development of its members. The program focuses on teaching the values of leadership, teamwork and self-discipline, so its members can live and promote a healthy, drug-free lifestyle. Since the Young Marines' humble beginnings in 1959 with one unit and a handful of boys, the organization has grown to more than 300 units with 10,000 youth and 3,000 adult volunteers in 46 states, the District of Columbia, Germany, Japan and affiliates in a host of other countries.
The Tri-State unit is located in Weirton and has been serving West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania since 1997. The unit can be reached at (304) 723-7071. For information on the Young Marines national program, visit the official website at: www.YoungMarines.com.