LEWISBURG, WV (WVNS) – One local veteran is leading the way for the next generation.

Sergeant Lefty Smith learned a lifetime’s worth of lessons during his 24 years of military service. But now, he spends his days passing those lessons on to the next generation.

Sergeant Smith, along with retired Command Star Major Jerry Long and retired Major Darel Pickenpaugh, heads up Greenbrier East High School’s Award-winning JROTC program. 

Smith said he tries to instill leadership skills, discipline, and the importance of serving the community into his students.

“It’s important to me to get involved in the community. The younger, and the more kids we can get involved in activities, the fewer we’re going to have out making bad choices,” Smith told 59News.

With more than 300 kids enrolled, Greenbrier East is one of the biggest JROTC programs in the entire state. They are also one of the most successful. 

The rifle team has won four straight West Virginia state championships. They also have a Drill competition team and a Raider obstacle course team.

Students who plan to enlist in the military after high school say they learn a lot from Sergeant Smith’s tough-love leadership style.

“You eventually learn that you’re going to get yelled at no matter what,” joked Senior Isaac Vance, who plans to enlist after graduation. “If you do good or bad, you’re going to get yelled at. So you’ll get used to it.”

But Sergeant Smith does not just connect with students who plan on enlisting. He also welcomes students with no military plans at all into his JROTC classes.

He still passes on the lessons he learned in the service, to try to make every one of his students a better member of the community.

“You learn a lot of leadership skills, a lot of social skills, you learn how to be a good worker and be dedicated to what you want to do,” said Senior Thomas Mullins.

Mullins says even though he doesn’t plan on enlisting, the skills Sergeant Smith taught him will be helpful when he’s a CEO.