Liberty mourns

LU Online student dies in action in Afghanistan

The Liberty University community is mourning the loss of Liberty Online student Sgt. Robert J. Billings, 30, who was killed Oct. 13 while deployed in


Billings is survived by his wife, Christy, and their four children, Isaiah, 10, Kayle, 8, Elijah, 5 and Naomi, 3.

After graduating from high school, Billings moved to Virginia and pursued a career with the United States Army in 2006. Billings was deployed overseas twice and was on his second deployment when enemy forces in Spin Boldak, a border town in the southern Kandahar province of Afghanistan, attacked his unit.

According to Emily Foutz, the director of the Office of Military Affairs, Billings began pursuing a Bachelor of Science online degree in criminal justice in 2010. At the time of his death, he was enrolled in courses for the fall semester.

“We were saddened to hear of this tragedy,” Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. said. “Sgt. Billings is one of our own and part of our family. We are praying for his family and will be forever grateful for his courage, dedication and sacrifice for our great country.”

According to a Morley, Mich. news report, where Billings’ family resides, he was just a short month away from returning back to the states.

According to Foutz, Liberty will hold a candlelight tribute service for fallen heroes during Military Emphasis Week, where Sgt. Billings will be honored for his service.

The Liberty community will also have a chance to take a moment to remember the sacrifices that people of the Armed Forces have made for our country Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. The service will be held on the steps in front of DeMoss Hall.

LU adjunct professor loses fight with cancer

Michael Ocealis, 58, of Goode, Va., died Thursday, Oct. 25 after a fight with cancer that spanned over several years.

He is survived by his wife, Sue, three siblings, seven children and eight grandchildren.


Ocealis worked for Liberty University for eight years, most recently as an associate registrar for Liberty University Online students and also as an adjunct faculty member in the School of Religion. Previously, he delivered mail for the Postal Services on campus.

An alumnus of Liberty, Ocealis obtained a Master of Arts in Religion (’04), a Master of Divinity (’07) and a Master of Theology (’08). At the time of his death, he was pursuing a Doctorate of Ministry.

Larry Shackleton, Vice President for Administrative Information Management, described Ocealis as his hero. “He was such a selfless person of God,” Shackleton said. “His concern for others was touching and inspiring.”

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