Nicholas Vinberg took a rare day off from school two years ago -- on May 24, 2013, to be exact.
The date marked the funeral for Jonathan Kaloust, 23, a Massapequa alum and Navy SEAL who was killed when his Humvee overturned during a training accident in Kentucky.
Vinberg, a patriotic teen from Massapequa Park with a self-proclaimed "strong calling" to serve the United States, wanted to honor the late SEAL in his own way despite never having met Kaloust or his family. He walked to town holding an American flag and stood for five hours across the street from the service at the Massapequa Funeral Home.See alsoWrite a message to your LI graduatePhotosAnd here are the 2015 valedictoriansSee alsoSearch: Where LI's smartest are going to college
"My heart was broken, so I asked my mom if I could take off from school and she didn't think twice," Vinberg, 18, said. "Whenever I hold a flag, I'm doing it for all the people who are giving their lives."
Vinberg's patriotism began at an early age when his mother painted an American flag in his room that spanned the length and width of the sloped ceiling above his bed. He also has the armed forces in his genes: His grandfather was an Army Ranger and Korean War POW who died a month after he was born.
But patriotism aside, it's Vinberg's work ethic that has most caught the eye of his teachers. To challenge himself, he omitted a lunch period last year to simultaneously take chemistry and physics, followed by double periods of AP physics and calculus this year.
The hard work has paid off. Vinberg is a member of his school's National Honor Society, High Honor Roll and Principal's List -- the latter of which he said recognizes those with an average of 94 or above.
To remain focused, Vinberg often reads from a small black notebook filled with hundreds of inspirational quotes.
"Nick sets incredibly high standards for himself and consistently meets his personal expectations with grace and modesty," said his guidance counselor, Allison Fifield. "He is an extremely ambitious young man."
In addition, Vinberg is captain of the varsity soccer team and a member of the varsity lacrosse and swimming teams. He played a key role in helping those teams win state championships for the 2013-14 school year. He also plays trumpet in wind ensemble and is a member of Senior Nation, a group of upperclassmen who mentor the district's younger students.
Outside of school, Vinberg is a lifeguard for the Town of Oyster Bay and is a buddy for special-needs children competing in the Empire State Games at Mitchel Field in Uniondale. He will attend the New Mexico Military Institute's Service Academy Preparatory Program, with the intention of going to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point the following year. Vinberg said he is "looking forward to the strict and regimented lifestyle" military schools provide.
WHAT MAKES YOU EXTRAORDINARY:
"Although I don't think of myself as extraordinary, I see things differently than most kids my age. I believe there are many people in this world who are going through tough times, and a few words or a simple smile can go a long way and pick them up."