- Associated Press - Thursday, May 4, 2017

MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) - David Letterman’s nephew will start a career in the military after graduating from Ball State University this weekend.

During the past four years, Liam Letterman Shelton let only a handful of people on campus know he was related to one of the school’s most celebrated graduates.

“It had always been on the back of my mind that the last thing I want people to think about me is I’m just trying to trail off my uncle or his namesake, celebrity status,” Shelton told The Star Press. “That’s the one thing I didn’t want people to see me as. I wanted people to see me as Liam Shelton, just another student making his way, trying to work his butt off to graduate and ultimately to be able to serve his country in the best way he could.”

Shelton and other BSU Army ROTC students who are commissioning into the military upon graduation will receive honors recognition during Saturday’s commencement ceremony. He officially will be sworn in as a second lieutenant and render his first salute, to a high school buddy, on Friday night.

“Right now, I’m just a cadet,” he said. “It’s cadet land, we call it.”

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Raised in St. Petersburg, Fla., Shelton and other members of his family visited Ball State when the David Letterman Communication and Media Building was dedicated 10 years ago. That experience when he was in middle school stuck in Shelton’s mind when he decided on a college.

He has mostly kept his family ties to Letterman to himself, though a few people found out “just because here’s my initial application, and they’d see my middle name, Letterman, and ask, ‘Is that a coincidence or real?’ Don’t lie to people. I tell them, ‘Yeah, he’s my uncle, but I like to keep that down low.’ “

Originally a political science major, Shelton switched to a double major in journalism news/telecommunications news after earning a D in American history his first semester.

“That was a bit of a wake-up call,” he said. “I’m not going to be coddled like through high school. It’s going to be a long four years if I keep this up.” ROTC woke him up.

His choice of a double major comes as no surprise because both of his parents were newspaper journalists. “They met in the newsroom at the Wichita Eagle in Kansas back in the 1980s or something,” Shelton said. “The rest is history.”

Letterman is the brother of Shelton’s mother.

During his Ball State career, Shelton worked on “Unmasked: The stigma of meth,” a Ball State website, magazine, radio series and public television documentary that examined the epidemic-sized meth problem in Muncie. He also worked in front of the camera and behind the scenes at NewsLink Indiana, a live television newscast from campus.

Shelton spent his first two years at Ball State in Studebaker Hall and his last two in an apartment in The Village. ROTC was like a fraternity to him. He had graduated from Admiral Farragut Academy, a private, college-prep school in St. Petersburg, before attending Ball State. The student body at Farragut included a large number of Chinese and other international students, which led Shelton to a Chinese minor at Ball State and a trip to China.

He hopes to do something in his military career to help make U.S.-Chinese relations “a little bit better, where we are on a little bit better terms and help prevent anything bad from happening. Just because somebody looks and speaks differently doesn’t mean they are any different than you or me. The whole purpose of me wanting to serve is I want to protect my friends and family here in the states. But I also have extended friends and family that I consider out in China and all around, and they fall under that umbrella as well.”

Shelton’s father is a Vietnam veteran and his father’s father was an Army captain in World War II.

He’s been told that at some point during commencement, he and other graduates wearing military honor cords will remove their caps and gowns and be recognized in their uniforms worn underneath. He recently received orders to attend Army Armor School, Fort Benning. Ga.

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Source: The (Muncie) Star Press, https://tspne.ws/2ptV6PX

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Information from: The Star Press, https://www.thestarpress.com


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