The award is given to cadets in recognition of exemplary performance in physical and military training. It's only handed out to about five or six cadets in Ontario per year.
“I was really surprised,” said Sheppard, who is a Chief Petty Officer Second Class with the 134 Admiral Mountbatten Sea Cadets in Greater Sudbury.
“Usually I catch wind of rumours about who's getting what, but this one was really hush-hush. So I had no idea I was going to be receiving it. I was proud of myself, really.”
Sheppard, a Grade 12 student at Lasalle Secondary School, has been involved in the cadet movement since he was 10 years old. He plans to join the Navy when he graduates high school.
As the corps' senior cadet, he's responsible for his fellow cadets' discipline and deportment.
Sheppard is involved with the corps' drill teams, and also participates in sailing and biathlon through cadets. He also participates in athletics outside of cadets, including hockey.
He said it's hard to put into words how much cadets has done for him.
“Cadets has improved my confidence immensely. It's made me a better person,” Sheppard said. “I'm at the stage where I'm teaching the younger cadets now. It's like seeing where I was in them, and I get to bring out my experience.”
The corps' commanding officer, Lt. (N.) Sean Pretty, said he's proud of Sheppard and his achievements.
“He's demonstrated outstanding leadership, encourages motivation amongst all cadets and continually sets a positive example,” he said.
Given his family history, it's no wonder Sheppard has done so well. He's the fourth generation to belong to the 134 Admiral Mountbatten Sea Cadets.
His great-grandfather, Gerry Bradley, was a cadet in the 1940s, and also served as a commanding officer with the movement, as well as a member of the naval reserves.
Bradley, who at the age of 81 still volunteers with the cadet corps, said he's proud of his great-grandson. As far as he knows, Sheppard is only the fourth member of the 134 Admiral Mountbatten Sea Cadets to receive the award.
“He's done well,” he said.