Thursday, August 21, 2014

OMA honors military

Military Emphasis Week pays tribute to US Armed Forces and veterans

recognition —  Students and soldiers display a giant American flag covering most of the field during halftime of the Liberty vs. VMI football game. Photo credit: Ruth Bibby

Recognition — Students and soldiers display a giant American flag covering most of the field during halftime of the Liberty vs. VMI football game. Photo credit: Ruth Bibby

Liberty University is hosting Military Emphasis Week Nov. 2-9 to honor and respect those who have fought and are currently fighting for the United States of America.

The events began Saturday with a tailgate on the front lawn of the Hancock Welcome Center. Members from every branch of the military gathered around tables with their spouses and children, enjoying food and concessions provided by the Office of Military Affairs (OMA), according to Military Outreach Coordinator Ashley Eskridge.

Families then attended the Military Appreciation football game, where the Flames defeated Virginia Military Institute 17-7.

The Liberty marching band, the Spirit of the Mountain, welcomed the crowd at the beginning of the game and continued their tribute during halftime, when Lt. Clebe McClary received the George Rogers Champion of Freedom Award.

This award is presented annually to a man or woman who “went above the call of duty, displaying extraordinary heroism while serving,” the Liberty News Service reported.

McClary was given this award due to injuries sustained on his 19th reconnaissance mission in Vietnam. He was critically wounded, losing an eye and arm, and was told he would never walk again, according to the Clebe McClary website. He also received the Silver Star and the Bronze Star by the president of the United States for his acts of bravery under fire.

Halftime included members of each branch standing as the crowd thanked them with applause for their service, a short clip from Jerry Falwell, Sr.’s speech “The American Solider” and Charles Billingsley performing “I’m Proud to Be an American.”

Military Emphasis Week continued with 10 other scheduled events that will conclude Saturday, Nov. 9 with the Valley View 5 Miler, according to Eskridge.

A Candlelight Vigil was held Monday at 7 p.m. on the steps of DeMoss Hall in honor of the students killed in action, as well as a luncheon in the Grand Lobby following Military Convocation and a webinar hosted by Associate Vice President for Military Outreach Maj. Gen. Robert F. Dees, Eskridge said.

“His topic is very relevant,” Eskridge said. “It was about helping veterans make that transition when they are leaving the military and making the transition into civilian life, as well as getting the job in the civilian workplace.”

According to Eskridge, it is the goal of OMA through these events to thank those who sacrifice to give American’s freedom.

“The goal of Military Emphasis Week is definitely to honor our military students, whether they are active, whether they are veterans, just really coming together and showing them how we support them by having this whole week dedicated to them,” Eskridge said.

According to Joseph Gay, who serves in the United States Armed Forces, OMA has achieved its goal of showing respect and assisting those transitioning into civilian life.

“I thoroughly enjoy these events and am happy that Liberty shows respect to the veterans … ” Gay said. “I am very happy to be a student here. OMA is overachieving in how much help they give us.”

Likewise, Joshua Teague, who is also a member of the United States Armed Forces, said OMA has helped make his transition easier.

“I’ve always heard that Liberty was outstanding in the military affairs department, but I never experienced it for myself until now,” Teague said. “It’s nice to call and have an advisor that can cater to me … that is the best part, for them being able to relate to me as a military member.”

Eskridge said it was Falwell’s passion to honor military members who “paved the way” for the creation of OMA.

“It really all started with the (president),” Eskridge said. “He was huge. Dr. Falwell was huge on the military so he really set the basis for that, just having that heart. When we first started, we were an office of six people.”

Since then, the need for more people solely dedicated to military members has grown , Eskridge said. The office has now grown from only six to more than 50.

“It is just amazing that all of those people really have that heart for military students,” Eskridge said.

According to Eskridge, the OMA also hosts other events throughout the year, including a Spouses Luncheon, Military Family Fun Day, which is hosted at Snowflex, and Student Connection, an event that welcomes military students at the beginning of every semester.

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