Teen declines Navy ROTC scholarship

Monday, August 27, 2007

CHICAGO -- The Navy offered the scholarship, then rescinded the money, then offered it again last week.

But family members said Sunday that a Loyola University freshman no longer wants the Navy's full college scholarship to enlist in its ROTC program.

The Navy awarded 18-year-old Danielle Littrell of Farmington, Mo., up to $180,000 in scholarship money last fall because she was an "exceptional candidate" as a class valedictorian, star basketball player and black belt in karate. But the Navy rescinded the offer last month because officials said a herniated disc from 2005 disqualified her.

By then, Littrell's family said the teenager, whose dream it was to become a military physician, had turned down scholarships from several schools.

The Navy offered the scholarship again to Littrell on Thursday and she declined it Saturday, according to Lori Littrell, speaking on her daughter's behalf from the family's home in Missouri.

"At this time, we are concerned that the reversal of the decision to physically not qualify Danielle is simply a ploy on the Navy's part to dismiss the negative attention that the Navy is currently receiving," the family wrote in a letter to the Navy.

Navy officials have said there was no unusual delay in alerting the student of the rejection and that all applicants sign paperwork that says the scholarship money is contingent upon a physical.

"We regret the timing. It placed a fair amount of stress on the family," Navy spokesman Captain Jack Hanzlik said Sunday. "We truly are sorry. ... All along, we had wanted to try and find a way to make this work out."

The ROTC program lets a student choose a college. In exchange for four years of tuition, the student serves four years in the military as an officer.

If Littrell had qualified for medical school after college, as she hoped to do, the Navy would pay for that too, in exchange for additional service.

Littrell got the back injury in 2005 during a basketball game, her mother said.

On March 16, Littrell had a Navy medical examination and told the doctor about the old basketball injury, but said she had no pain and had been rehabilitated, her mother said.

Four months later, a letter from the Department of Defense said she was not fit for duty because of her herniated disc and a "weak or painful back." The family protested, and her orthopedist sent more medical records to the Navy to help her case. But the military stuck by its decision in a letter in late July.

"Danielle's feeling for the military is not a positive one. I don't know she would ever trust what the Navy would say to her," Lori Littrell said. "She had a lot of concern she would be singled out. She doesn't know how she would be treated."

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