Military Student Spotlight

Liberty University is proud of the difference our current and former students are making in the world. Here we highlight a few of our military students and their notable achievements. 


Change in Military Policy Opens Door for Military Graduate

June 2017

Meet Lieutenant Colonel Patricia Harris, U.S. Army.  

As a Judge Advocate General (JAG) in the U.S. Army, LTC Harris has served our nation for nearly 25 years.  Her military career has taken her all over the world, including two deployments – once to Iraq in 2005 and once to Afghanistan in 2012-2013. She has been married for 30 years to her husband who himself served for 30 years as an officer in the U.S. Army. At one point, they were both deployed at the same time, leaving their 3 children at home with family. 

Having already earned a Bachelor of Arts, a Master of Law, and a Juris Doctorate at various institutions, Harris thought she was done with her schooling. However, after the Army expanded their Tuition Assistance program to cover Certificate programs in 2015, Harris learned of Liberty University’s Graduate Certificate in Military Resilience.

Having lived a life of resilience, Harris found the coursework for the Graduate Certificate in Military Resilience both familiar and beneficial. She plans to use her military resilience training at her new assignment as an attorney advisor at the Army's Medical Command in Falls Church, Virginia. She hopes to be able to provide suggestions for improving policies that will impact future service members.

Harris wants to encourage current service members to take advantage of all of the educational benefits available to them. “I encourage service members to take advantage of the Tuition Assistance the military provides and use it at Liberty University where they are awarded a military discount,” Harris said. “This combined with the excellent online curriculum and degree options will provide them with one of the best academic atmospheres possible to pursue higher education goals.”


Graduating Together, Serving Together: The DuBois Family

April 2017

Meet retired U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Joshua DuBois and his wife Tina. 

At Commencement 2017, Joshua will be receiving a Master of Arts in Christian Ministry and Tina will receive her Bachelor of Science in Religion: Christian Counseling. Their 19 year old son Jerry will receive his Associate of Arts in Religion as well, and all three will be walking at Commencement together.

Joshua served on active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps from July 1996 to September 2014, with Tina serving alongside him as a faithful military spouse through many deployments, long hours, and late nights. They are both the first in their families to complete a college degree. Joshua plans to continue his education and is currently working on a Master of Divinity at Liberty University.

After living a life of service in the military, it is no surprise that the DuBois family plans to continue serving, this time in ministry. Joshua, Tina, and their daughter Savanna will be moving to Thailand after graduation, where they will serve as the In-Country Directors for Thrive Rescue. Through this ministry, they will be working with children who have been rescued from human trafficking. Their son Jerry plans to serve the Lord as a full-time missionary as well, and will attend Kairos Discipleship School in Seattle after graduation as he takes his next steps into ministry. Savanna plans to attend Liberty University after completing high school.

We are excited to see the great things the Lord is doing and will continue to do through this military family!


Liberty Student Named Kentucky National Guard Spouse of the Year

February 2017

Meet Kentucky National Guard military spouse Robin Pruitt.

Robin was recently named the Kentucky National Guard Military Spouse of the Year and a Top 18 candidate in the Military Spouse of the Year competition! Robin has been married to her husband, Anthony, for ten years and they have four children. She works part-time as a Children’s Minister and currently volunteers for the Kentucky National Guard Recruit and Sustainment Program as the Family Readiness Group (FRG) leader. Through this role, she serves around 700 soldiers and their families. Robin is currently pursuing her Master of Arts in Christian Ministry at Liberty University with plans to move on to the Master of Arts in Professional Counseling. She hopes to use her degree to become a Christian counselor for military families and veterans.

Read more about Robin and her participation in the Military Spouse of the Year competition. 


From Medically Retired to Spiritually Renewed

January 2017

Meet retired Army Sergeant and current LUO student Aaron LaBarge.

With 8.5 years of service, 3 duty stations, and 2 tours of duty in Iraq and South Korea, LaBarge’s story sounds fairly typical for an Army veteran –but just under the surface is a story of perseverance through trials, shattered dreams, renewed hope, and God’s grace in helping a young man find his calling in ministry.

"I joined the Army as a young 18 year old Chaplains Assistant. Little did I know this would be the decision that would have the biggest impact on who I am today. My first duty station was Fort Benning, GA, where I would lose my mom via heart complications. I would also meet and marry my beautiful wife. The next year I deployed to Iraq and was able to come back on R&R to see my second son born. Soon after deployment we left for Fort Hood where I found my calling to work with children and families while serving at our local church.

But, after 2.5 years of serving at the hospital at Fort Hood, the Army decided to send me to Korea. Korea was fun at times, but it is always hard being away from family. After returning I was stationed at Fort Campbell where we found out a third child was on the way. He would be born a month early. A nurse noticed right after birth his breathing wasn't normal and doctors quickly went to work. That was the scariest moment in my life. After almost a month in the hospital we were able to bring him home. Also while at Campbell I was diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. This would be the ending of my military career. 

This was a hard moment in my life because the military was my life. But God had a plan. I was medically retired. This is the part where Liberty University comes in. As we walked away from the military, there was a calling on my life to work with children and families. So I started going to school online with Liberty not knowing were God may take us next. I am proud to say I am getting ready to start my Masters of Divinity in the Spring. And I am now serving as a Children's Pastor.

I love what I do now and would not trade the rough nights, the lonely holidays, or anything else that brought me here. God has protected me and my family through many of things. And now that I cannot serve, I am thankful for those who can.


Student's expertise saves passengers and earns rare Broken Wing Award

November 2016

Meet retired Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jason Starr.

Jason is a current online Liberty University military student, working on his undergraduate degree with the ultimate goal of earning his Master’s degree in Executive Leadership. Jason served in the U.S. Army, starting as a Forward Observer on a COLT (Combat Observation Lasing Team) serving in Bosnia, and later transitioning to Aviation where he served on multiple missions overseas flying Black Hawk helicopters. On one such mission, while shuttling passengers between bases in Egypt, an aircraft malfunction caused the helicopter he was piloting to drop out of the sky. By staying calm and relying on his training, Jason’s expertise kept the flight crew, passengers, and himself alive. On January 31, 2014, Jason was awarded the rare Broken Wing Award for his heroic actions.

Read more about Jason's story here


Military student volunteers hundreds of hours in Saudi Arabia

October 2016

Meet Captain McLaren "Mac" Westland, U.S. Army Reserve.

Westland is a current graduate student at Liberty University. With fourteen years of military service under his belt, he currently serves as a Military Intelligence Captain in the U.S. Army Reserve. While his studies and various combat tours of duty certainly keep him busy, Westland still finds time to volunteer and serve others in his community.  

During his most recent tour of duty this summer in Saudi Arabia, Westland, along with other members of his team, devoted hundreds of hours to volunteering with Open Skies, a nonprofit organization that provides therapeutic horse riding for mentally and physically disabled children in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. According to their website, Open Skies is the only facility in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia that offers hippotherapy and relies mostly on word-of-mouth to find volunteers for the program. 

Speaking of the experience, Westland said, “Having the ability to make positive relationships with children and their families amidst language barriers and within a very challenging environment offered an eye opening positive cultural experience that I will never forget.”

Thank you Captain Westland for making a positive impact through the opportunities given by your military service. We are so proud of you!


Spotlight on Service: Meet Crown Ngugi

July 2016

Meet Petty Officer Second Class Crown Ngugi, an active duty Damage Controlman in the U.S. Navy.

Originally from Lynchburg, Virginia, Crown attended Liberty University as a residential student for two years before answering the call to serve his country. Due to his service obligations that has taken him all over the world, he switched his degree to Liberty University Online to allow the flexibility required by his military service. Through two separate deployments and many months at sea, Crown successfully completed his Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice in May 2016. He plans to continue his education through Liberty University Online and recently began his Master of Business Administration with a focus on Criminal Justice Administration.

Crown’s favorite Bible verse is Joshua 1:9: "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." When his schoolwork and career becomes challenging, Crown says he refers back to this verse and turns to the Lord to be his comfort.

Congratulations on your achievements Crown! We are so proud to have you in our Liberty University military family!


LU Student Named Alaska National Guard Spouse of the Year

March 2016

Recent Liberty graduate and military spouse, Jenifer Burris is the Alaska National Guard Spouse of 2016 for the Armed Forces Insurance Agency and Military Spouse magazine. She was nominated for this award by her husband, Chief Master Sgt. Steve Burris, Alaska Air National Guard. Jenifer was also selected as one of the top three National Guard spouses in the nation. 

Jenifer has worked for the Alaska Department of Public Safety for over 17 years. She says that her job as a Mental Health Specialist at the Chris Kyle Patriots Hospital motivated her to continue her education through Liberty’s Master of Arts in Human Services Counseling — Addictions and Recovery program. Jenifer excelled at Liberty last year, graduating with a B.S. in Psychology — Christian Counseling and a Certificate in Military Resilience with a 4.0 GPA.

Like many other military spouses and service members, Jenifer appreciates the flexibility of Liberty’s online education. “Being an online student has allowed me to continue working full time for the Alaska State Troopers, part time for the Chris Kyle Patriots Hospital, volunteering, and focusing on being a wife and mom.”

Jenifer has a message for other military spouses studying at Liberty: “I would simply say keep up the good fight. Being a military spouse is one of the most rewarding, demanding, fulfilling, and amazing roles I have been blessed to have. I would not trade it for anything.”


Meet recent military graduate William Tucker

January 2016

Recent graduate Master Sgt. Tucker began his academic journey with Liberty University in 2012, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in religion. Now, he has finally reached the finish line, and we join him in celebrating the recent conferral of his degree.

As a devoted husband of 21 years to his wife, Amanda, the father of three sons, and a senior non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Army with nearly 25 years of service, Master Sgt. Tucker overcame many challenges to earn his degree. He recalls many late nights with little sleep — choosing to do most of his schoolwork while his family slept. He has also been on several deployments to locations in the Middle East, managing to complete his courses with the help of supportive professors.

“Fortunately, I could take my schoolwork along and not miss anything” Tucker said. “That was a bit challenging at times while being deployed, but I did have great instructors who worked with me.”

Now with his degree in hand, he plans to retire from the military and do more face-to-face ministry. “I hope that I will be able to get more involved in missions and training people in basic and advanced Bible understanding,” said Tucker, “and possibly help others gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a Christian and to have answers for their faith.”

Congratulations, Master Sgt. Tucker! Your dedication to God, family, and country is inspiring, and we are honored to have you as part of our military family at Liberty University.


Liberty Alumna Encourages Fellow Military Students

December 2015

Meet Lonyae Marjorie Ransome. Liberty Alumna Lonyae Ransome joined the U.S. Army in 2005 at the age of 19 and married her husband, Philip, a year later. Over the last decade, including deployment overseas, Ransome has earned a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice – Forensic Science, and from Liberty University a Master of Science in Criminal Justice – Public Administration and a Graduate Certificate in Leadership & Management. She is now in pursuit of a doctorate degree. 

Ransome said, “I want someone to look at me and say, ‘Because of you, I didn’t give up.’” She continued, “Anything is possible with effort, and you will be amazed at what you can accomplish. Be proud of everything you do — even your mistakes, because your mistakes show that you're trying. Please, do not give up.”


Liberty Alumnus Named Chief of Chaplains for the U.S. Air Force

November 2015

Meet Major General Dondi Costin, U.S. Air Force. Maj. Gen. Costin now serves as the chief of chaplains for the U.S. Air Force. As chief of chaplains, Costin oversees the religious and moral welfare of more than 664,000 active duty, national guard, reserve, and civilian forces serving in the U.S. and overseas. He is responsible for establishing programs to meet the religious needs of Air Force members and their dependents and managing about 2,000 chaplains and chaplain assistants who minister around the world. 

Costin earned a Master of Arts in Counseling through Liberty's distance learning program ('91) and a residential Master of Arts in Religion ('92). Costin stated that his Liberty education equipped him with strong biblical convictions and practical ministry skills, the combination of which has defined his minstry as a chaplain.


Liberty Student Competes in Ms. Veteran America Competition

October 2015

Meet Sergeant Jolene M. Trout, U.S. Army National Guard. Jolene serves as a Sergeant through the Pennsylvania National Guard and is currently pursuing the M.Ed Teaching and Learning – Elementary degree through Liberty University’s online program. In addition to her role as a soldier and a graduate student, she is also a mother, serves as a dance instructor, and coaches a high school cheerleading team. Due to her passion for serving God, country, and others, Sergeant Trout will be competing in the Ms. Veteran America competition this month on October 18th in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Jolene's favorite passage of Scripture is Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.”


Liberty Military Student Leaving a Legacy

September 2015

Meet SFC Corey A. Brooks, U.S. Army. A soldier for 17 years and a Liberty student for over 20 years, SFC Brooks has already earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees through Liberty, completed the final requirement for his Education Specialist degree this summer while serving our country in Afghanistan, and has plans to begin Liberty’s Doctor of Education program next year. SFC Brooks balances his rigorous educational pursuits with his military duty and his family. His wife, Chelsea, and their two sons share his ambition for educational success, as SFC Brooks proudly shared that all three are straight-A students. As a word of encouragement to his fellow military students, Corey wants you to know: “Take advantage of the time you are given. Excuses only delay success. No matter the struggle or difficulty, the reward in the end is well worth every rough moment.”


Student named among Air Force's Outstanding Airmen of the Year

August 2015

Meet Senior Airman Mason Meherg, U.S. Air Force. Due to his quick rise through the enlisted ranks, Senior Airman Meherg was selected as his command’s Outstanding Airman of the Year and was recently named to the Air Force Association’s 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year for 2015.

As an encouraging note to his fellow classmates, Senior Airman Meherg wrote, “Take advantage of the educational opportunities available to you — you will be glad you did. My experience has been phenomenal, from the instructor support all the way to those working in the front office.”

Read the full story here.


Deployed Liberty Military Student Completes Degree

July 2015

Meet Master Sergeant Tavio Soto, U.S. Air Force. MSgt Soto has been an online Liberty student since 2007, having completed his Bachelors in Religion in 2011, and starting his Master’s degree in Human Services – Executive Leadership shortly thereafter. A devoted husband and father of three beautiful girls, with eighteen years as a professional military fire fighter and almost 8 years as an online student, Tavio is no stranger to hard work and perseverance. He will be completing his Master’s degree this summer, while serving his country overseas on deployment. As encouragement to his fellow classmates, Tavio wants you to know: “Taking online college classes isn’t for the faint-hearted but it isn’t terribly difficult either. Besides, if God is with you, who can be against you?”


Military Students in the LUCOM Inaugural Class

October 2014

In the inaugural class of the Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine, eleven students are set apart by their military experience. Ten different states, three military branches, and a combined total of over seventy years of military service are represented within this group of military medical students.

Read the full story here.


Military graduate crowned Miss Black USA

August 2014

Jasmin Alexander was crowned Miss Black USA on August 10th, 2014. As an Air Force First Lieutenant and intelligence officer, Jasmin Alexander is representing Liberty University and the U.S. military in outstanding fashion!

Read the full story here.


Deployed military student graduates in Afghanistan

May 2013

U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Eric Schenck graduated from Liberty University Online with 55 other service members and civilians in Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan on May 28, 2013.

Read the full story here.


LU Online military student aided Haiti relief efforts

January 2011

U.S. Navy Chaplain Michael Howard, a Liberty alumnus holding several degrees from Liberty University Online, helped coordinate relief efforts for Operation Unified Response. His efforts aided victims of the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

Read the full story here.


How are you impacting the world for Christ?

We would love to hear how you are impacting the world for Christ as a current or former Liberty student. Email us at MAONewsletters@liberty.edu if you or someone you know has a story to share and would like to be considered for one of our student highlights.

Graduated students can stay connected with us and other military alumni through our LU Alumni Chapters!