Centenarian WWII and Korea veteran awards scholarship to ROTC Cadet

Centenarian WWII and Korea veteran awards scholarship to ROTC Cadet
Cadet Zachary Nemecek and retired Lt. Col. Oren Lee Peters pose for a photo during an event at the University of Central Oklahoma on June 7. Peters said set up the scholarship program last year to support ROTC cadets because of the impact he feels they will provide for the country. Photo credit KT King/UCO Photo Services

It’s been many years since retired Lt. Col. Oren Lee Peters has served his country in uniform, but that hasn’t stopped him from supporting the Army and the Soldiers who make up the ranks. Peters, who recently turned 100 years old, established a scholarship in his name for students in the University of Central Oklahoma ROTC program last year.

Cadet Zachary Nemecek, a junior at UCO, was the first recipient of the scholarship – receiving the scholarship and meeting Peters June 7. Established in June 2020, the scholarship provides $1,000 for ROTC cadets at UCO.

This is the second scholarship program Peters, a veteran both World War II and the Korean War, has sponsored. He previously started an endowment in honor of his wife, Lucile, in the Edmond Public School District. A testament to her commitment to students and teaching, the Lucile Peters Math Award is awarded to math teachers who focus on empowering students.

When Peters wished to start another scholarship program, he though about the ROTC students he knew, about the impact they would have on the country, and decided to support their endeavors. Peters' connection to ROTC also stretches back to early in his Army career.

“As a second lieutenant in WWII, I received a battlefield commission but I refused to sign the oath of office because I knew that would mean I could not come home,” he said. “So I came home from the war at the age of 19, returned to school, joined the ROTC and received my commission at a later date.”

Besides being awarded the scholarship, Nemecek was able to spend some time talking with Peters.

“He told me I looked like a fine young man and he was impressed I was able to win his scholarship over my senior peers,” he shared. “He also told me that I am welcome to come visit his house and he will show his memorabilia and tell me stories of his time with the 45th Infantry in WWII. That is what I am most excited about because there is so much that can be learned from him.”

Peters, who has spent much of his life donating time to volunteering, had this advice for Cadets.

“Volunteering is the one thing that you must do to give back and/or further your career. Volunteer for different positions or tasks and do the best you can with any assignment given to you,” he said. “Ask questions and work hard, because you can't do a job by looking at it and only thinking about it. You do the job because you work at it day in and out, learn it, perfect it and teach it to others.”

Army ROTC produces approximately 70 percent of the officers entering the Army each year and is available through nearly 1,000 college campuses nationwide. Army ROTC teaches leadership and discipline, management techniques, cultural awareness and problem solving. Those who participate in Army ROTC and subsequently serve as Army officers develop leadership and managerial skills that last a lifetime.