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Active duty Marine surprises sister by delivering her diploma

May 16, 2014 : By Ted Allen/Liberty University News Service

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Joshua Everett with sister Rebekah Everett.
Rebekah Everett receives a hug, and her degree in Athletic Training, from her younger brother, U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Joshua Everett, on Saturday, May 11, 2014.

There were many touching moments during Liberty University’s 41st Commencement on Saturday, both at Williams Stadium, site of the main ceremony, and in the degree presentations held afterward in surrounding facilities.

In a surprise as well orchestrated as a covert military operation, Department of Health Professions graduate Rebekah Everett received her diploma from her younger brother, U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Joshua Everett, on the Schilling Center stage.

Less than two weeks after returning from a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan with the 1st Battalion 4th Marines, he flew in from Camp Pendleton in San Diego, Calif., to Lynchburg, Va., to honor his big sister. The Marine Corps assaultman, who defused explosives and ordnances throughout the Middle East, left Rebekah Everett shell-shocked.

“I haven’t seen my sister in 11 months so I wanted to surprise her and make her feel special,” said Joshua Everett, camouflaged in civilian clothing because his dress uniform no longer fits his lean frame and he was not allowed to wear his active duty outfit to the Commencement. “We did it. She had no clue. It was great. I think we all got her.”

Earlier in the year, at Rebekah Everett’s request, Liberty’s Physical Therapy and Athletic Training departments surprised Joshua Everett and his platoon by sending them a care package. Joshua Everett made the most of his opportunity to return the favor.

Rebekah Everett with her younger brother Josua Everett at Commencement.
Rebekah Everett holds the diploma presented by her brother, Joshua Everett.

 “It worked out perfect,” said John Everett, the siblings’ father who was in on the surprise. “Everything was secret. We didn’t even tell his grandparents (John and Rosemary De Wolfe, who came up from South Carolina) until this morning. She was totally surprised. She had no clue. She was in disbelief, shock, (she was) just kind of amazed, and honored.”

Rebekah Everett became a little suspicious when she was moved to the front of the procession as she and her Athletic Training classmates approached the stage to receive their diplomas.

“Everyone was like, ‘You have to be the first one,’ and I was like, ‘Why? I don’t want to go first,’” she said.

She was left speechless when her brother came out from behind the backstage curtain to hand out her degree.

“I tripped up the stage and I stubbed my toe, but it’s OK,” Rebekah Everett said.

While she may not have shown much emotion on the outside, she was blown away that her brother would fly across the country to see her graduate.

“Her smile just said everything,” Joshua Everett said.

The reward of receiving an emotional, homecoming hug from her sibling before thousands of people was well worth any pain or embarrassment.

“It was kind of awkward, but it was so nice to embrace him, my little brother,” Rebekah Everett said.

“We’re really close. He’s my best friend, so it was really nice to actually spend this moment with him.”

The two siblings were rarely apart growing up in Maryland, where they were homeschooled by their mom, Andrea Everett.

“The only thing that separated them was college and the Marines,” John Everett said. “It’s neat to see them come back together.”

U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua Everett gives his sister Rebekah Everett a hug.
Lance Cpl. Joshua Everett with his 3rd Platoon Bravo Company in the Middle East

Joshua Everett discussed the idea of staging the surprise with his dad back in February, while he was with his 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), traveling throughout the Persian Gulf aboard the U.S.S. Harper’s Ferry.

This was his third visit to Lynchburg to see his sister, but the first since being stationed at Camp Pendleton in the summer of 2012. He returned to San Diego on Sunday and expects to be there for at least a couple months before being deployed again.

There is a possibility Rebekah Everett could start her career by joining her brother on the West Coast.

“She’s got a job interview in Southern California, so she could wind up near her brother, which would be good,” John Everett said. 

“We’ll see where God takes me,” Rebekah Everett added.

Military spouse, graduates honored

During Saturday’s 41st Commencement at Williams Stadium, Malory Mallery, an online graduate who drove from Kansas to attend the ceremony, was brought to tears and fell to her knees as she was recognized by President Jerry Falwell and shown a video message prepared by her husband, U.S. Army Sgt. Mark S. Mallery, stationed in Afghanistan.

Liberty honored its own students who are members of the United States Armed Forces at Friday night’s third annual Military Graduate Recognition Ceremony in the Vines Center.