Kurt Comber is a senior at Cherry Hill High School East, who has been involved with scouting since childhood, and whose goal next year is not merely to continue his education.
Instead of finding himself within a cushy dorm on a leafy quad, Comber has set his sights on candidacy for two bellwethers of military education: The United States Naval Academy and Virginia Military Institute.
“My interest in the Naval Academy started my sophomore year. I saw an article about it and I thought it was an interesting (choice) for college. It’s something that people like-minded like me, have that (drive) be at the top, and serve with honor,” Comber said in a Nov. 26 conversation with the Sun.
“I’ve always been a natural leader and being an officer would (suit me best).”
For Comber, it might also be a hereditary choice, as his uncles and grandfathers served in the military.
It seems natural, then, that he’d choose a military theme for his Eagle Scout service project. Comber wasn’t satisfied with merely finding local veterans and talking to them. Instead, he expanded the project into a documentary.
The Cherry Hill Public Library screened the end product, entitled “Veteran’s Voices, Stories from the Vietnam Conflict” on Nov. 19.
“I wanted to give something back to the community. I wanted the public to see things they normally wouldn’t see in documentary films, like in Hollywood productions. I was a little nervous going into the screening itself because a lot of people who saw it previously said it was good, but I thought that (with a public screening) I could get the public’s opinion,” Comber admitted.
“I was really happy and surprised that they told us, because one of the veterans – Tom Baird – he never really even told his family about it. When his daughter came to support him, she told me he never opened up to her before. I think (they were able to open up) because this was an Eagle Scout project and they knew me.”
Councilwoman Carolyn Jacobs, who attended the screening, offered high praise for the documentary to Comber personally and then at township council’s last public session on Nov. 25, saying: “It was absolutely remarkable and I want to publicly commend (him) and I want to officially commend the leadership of Troop 170.”
Comber began his journey in first grade with the Cub Scouts, then progressed through Webelos and ultimately into Boy Scouts in fifth grade. He admitted the organization will be with him for the remainder of his life. The seeds of his desire for leadership were clearly sown from a young age.
“One leader told me about National Youth Leadership Training and it was a week-long (program). I was in seventh grade, not even 13. It completely changed who I was. I was in charge of people who were 17, 18 years old. It was nerve-wracking because I’m talking to high schoolers when I’m in middle school. But they had faith in me,” he related.
“Now being at the Eagle Scout level, I have more to say (as a leader) and much more of a background to give more advice.”
Outside of scouting, Comber has honed his leadership skills as captain of East’s Boys Varsity Swim team. His future educational endeavors will predict whether or not he’ll continue with the sport.
“I don’t think I’ll be swimming at the Naval Academy, but if I don’t get into there, I’m looking into VMI and if I get in, I will hopefully be swimming there,” he said.
Comber also serves as captain of Bike MS team “Kelly’s Heroes” in honor of his mother who suffers from multiple sclerosis. This year’s ride, which occurred this past September, was a 160-mile, two-day, round-trip course from Cherry Hill to Ocean City boardwalk and back that raised $29,000.
Always prepared for what may come next, Comber isn’t putting his eggs in one basket. While clearly his primary goal, if either of the service academies don’t come calling, he’s comfortable with staying local – attending Drexel University and continuing to develop his skills with new opportunities there.
To view Comber’s documentary, visit https://drive.google.com/file/d/1IQLbUK54Bt68Us0mMO5StdzgXKWQzVmZ/view?usp=sharing.