Lionel Russell Becenti, a 21-year-old Ensign in the United States Navy and member of the Navajo Nation, graduated May 27 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in systems engineering from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
According to his brother Leo Becenti, Lionel described the academy as “challenging, fast-paced, and rewarding.” While there he was an All-American for the Navy International Pistol Team.
Lionel grew up on a Navajo sheep farm in Table Mesa, New Mexico where he lived with his grandparents, Ella and Leo Becenti Sr. His parents are Sara and Leo Becenti Jr., who was a Marine for eight years.
Lionel graduated from Kingman High School in 2007 with a 4.1 GPA. He was honored that year as the Most Inspirational Athlete for his achievements in wrestling.
“He decided to attend the Naval Academy because he was inspired to become a pilot,” Leo told Indian Country Today Media Network. “He also looked up to his father Leo Becenti Jr. while he was in the Marines.”
Lionel is now stationed in Pensacola, Florida where he is continuing his training to become a naval flight officer.
Leo made sure to note how proud he is of his little brother. “I feel he has paved the way for many more future young Native Americans who want to attend a top military institution like the U.S. Naval Academy,” he said.