SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A Young Marine from San Diego won a scholarship to escort WWII veterans to Iwo Jima and Guam in Spring of 2021.
"I was just blown away because I'm not only so excited to go to Iwo Jima and Guam and experience the culture and immerse myself but also being able to escort a veteran. That is just something that is a once in a lifetime opportunity," Sophia Righthouse, 17, said.
The trip is part of the Young Marines' annual "Reunion of Honor." The week-long trip brings WWII veterans back to the islands they fought on so many years ago and educates Young Marines on history, culture, and leadership.
The trip happens each March, and in 2021 the pandemic is putting it at risk. Righthouse isn't worried.
"I know the government is working with Japan right now to make sure we can go over," she says.
Righthouse won the Jimmy Trimble Scholarship from the American Veterans Center. The scholarship is named after a young athlete who gave up the opportunity to play professional baseball to join the Marines.
Trimble died in battle on Iwo Jima on March 1, 1945, at 19-years-old.
Righthouse exemplifies Trimble's "finest qualities" needed to earn the scholarship. You may recognize her name from her heroism in 2018 when she evacuated people in an apartment complex that was on fire.
She earned an award from the San Diego Fire Department, and a day named in her honor by San Diego City Council.
She's won the National Honor Society Volunteer Service Award for completing more than 1,300 hours of community service.
Righthouse excelled in cheerleading, dance, and in the Young Marines. Her uniform is adorned with dozens of badges, and medals.
"Honestly I think it's my family and my friends that push me to strive every single day to be the best person I can possibly be," she said.
She found her calling as a Young Marine when she was 8-years-old at a parade.
"As an 8-year-old you don't see anything like that in the world, other than in the actual military. So I saw them marching, they were all uniformed and disciplined and I said I want to do something like that," she said with a smile.
She joined the Young Marines that year and has been in the program for nine years.
"It's a really great program to strengthen your leader inside of you and bring out the natural born leader that we all have," she said.
This trip will be one of her last before she graduates high school.
She applied to several military academies and colleges and hopes to make a positive impact on the world as an Operations Officer.
When asked what she wants San Diegans to know about her journey, she said "one of the biggest things I've learned, even though I'm 17, is just trust the process and believe in yourself."