“Best And Brightest” One Of The Bravest

It won’t be the first time this has happened at Florida State University. In fact, it happens every year in Tallahassee. In the fall FSU will welcome fewer scholarship students than it had expected.

But in this case it won’t be a baseball player who forsook FSU for Major League Baseball bonus money. And it won’t be a hotshot football or basketball star who couldn’t produce a qualifying score on the SAT.

This one will be different. Tragically different. This one is an academic scholarship recipient who won’t be reporting — because he was killed in Iraq.

Lance Cpl. Andrew Aviles, not yet 19, had deferred his full scholarship to fulfill a more immediate dream than going off to college to get a bachelor’s degree in business. Ever since joining Junior ROTC, he had wanted to be a Marine. It was, say those who knew him best, out of a sense of duty and challenge and a constant quest for self-improvement.

What makes it so tragic is what makes Aviles, Robinson High School, Class of ’02, so special. It’s why the students and staff of Robinson took his death so hard.

Unlike many young men and women who sign on to this country’s all-volunteer armed forces, Aviles had plenty of options and the brightest of prospects. Scenarios for success tend to beckon for athletic class presidents who are members of the National Honor Society, third in their graduating class and winners of an academic scholarship. Family and friends spoke highly of his character — and sense of humor.

Aviles’ could easily have headed for FSU, gone on to graduate school and carved out a safe, successful, satisfying career in any number of fields. Instead he became a Marine and did his duty first. And last.

We are all in his debt, and we salute Tampa’s Lance Cpl. Andrew Aviles. One of the “best and brightest” was also one of the “bravest.”

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