Aidan Carman talks about recieving the  Army Minuteman Scholarship, during a surprise ceremony at the American Airpower Museum in Farmingdale. Credit: Newsday / Howard Simmons/Howard Simmons

When Aidan Carman showed up Friday afternoon at the American Airpower Museum in Farmingdale, he thought he was just getting an interview with an Army general. Instead, four-star Commanding Gen. Paul E. Funk handed Carman a $40,000 check.

"They did a great job keeping it a secret," Carman, 18, said of his family, who brought him to the museum for the event. Only his father knew he had won the scholarship. "I’m still in shock."

Carman, of Islip, won an Army Reserve Minuteman scholarship, a national program that provides those interested in an Army career with a four-year scholarship to a college or university with an Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program. In exchange, the student must commit to serve eight years in the Army Reserves.

Carman’s father, David, 50, kept not only Aidan in the dark about the scholarship, but the entire family, including wife Jacqueline, 57, and Aidan’s four siblings.

"It’s a really proud day for all of us," David Carman said. "He’s worked really hard in school and he’s definitely earned it."

Carman is a senior at St. John the Baptist High School in West Islip. His scholarship will cover tuition at Farmingdale State College, which he will attend in the fall, and all books and fees. The school has 28 students in the Army Reserves and National Guard, and 108 military veterans out of the 9,348 students enrolled, said Katy Tatzel, Farmingdale’s chief communications & external relations officer. This is the school’s first Minuteman scholarship recipient, she said.

Steven Castleton, civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army, chooses the recipients for the state and said he has given out 10 in the past three years in the New York City/Long Island region. Nationally, about 580 Minuteman scholarships are awarded annually.

Castleton said students must have at least a B+ average to qualify, along with extracurricular activities, and must submit an essay on why they want to serve in the Army. But more than what’s on paper, Castleton said that during the followup interview he is observing the student’s character and demeanor.

"Every time I asked him a question, he looked me right in the eye," Castleton said. "The respect he had for himself, the confidence he had in himself, the way he came into the office dressed like a young man. . . . I was just blown away."

Aidan Carman said he will major in the college’s aviation program with the hope of one day becoming a pilot.

"It’s amazing to be able to do something this great," Carman said. "I wanted to do something that’s bigger than me, something important. I feel like I’m ready to do that and this feels like that thing."

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