|Cpl. Luije Padron, right, is recognized during a special graduation ceremony at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.|
More than 2,000 graduates in Liberty University’s Class of 2012 are military members, many of them serving their country overseas. While several were unable to attend Liberty’s Commencement, the military offers a chance for them to celebrate their accomplishments at special ceremonies at their place of deployment.
One of those graduates, Cpl. Luije Padron, recently participated in the Bagram Airfield Graduation Recognition Ceremony in Afghanistan on May 26.
Dressed in uniform, combat boots and cap and gown, several service members earning degrees from various colleges walked across a stage to receive their diplomas. Keynote speaker for the ceremony was Col. Christopher E. Crate. Dr. Allan J. Berg from The University of Maryland presented the certificates.
Padron graduated Summa Cum Laude from Liberty University Online with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, and a minor in psychology. He was a member of Psi Chi at Liberty, the Psychology International Honors Society.
Padron said he desired to join the military right out of high school, but instead went on to pursue a college degree and a career, and before he knew it, he was already 30 years old.
“I still had the desire to serve my country and to do so through the military, so I went to go to see what my options were at this point in time and ended up joining the U.S. Army Reserve,” he said. “My mom always said that I was finally fulfilling the plan that God told her He had for me, that a soldier in the U.S. Army is where I was going to ultimately serve as a soldier in God’s army and do His will.”
Padron signed up as a commissioned officer, but decided to first enlist as a soldier.
“I strongly believe that one cannot be a leader if you don’t know what it is like to be led first,” he said. “A good officer needs to know what it is like as an enlisted soldier in order to be able to truly watch out for his or her needs.”
Padron, who transferred into Liberty Online his junior year, is not only grateful for being able to complete his degree and graduate while deployed overseas, but said Liberty was “key to bringing me back to God.”
“I had for many years drifted away and thanks to Liberty I found my way back,” he said. “I got my Bible out of the bookshelf where it was only looking pretty and began reading it again, studying it, living it. I see many things different than I did prior to my time at Liberty, which ultimately, is the best lesson one could take away.”
Padron has met the requirements and passed the junior promotion board for sergeant. In 2011, he had the opportunity to attend the U.S. Army Military Police School where he became a military police investigator.
Padron is scheduled to return to his station in Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico in December.
Emily Foutz, Director of Military Affairs at Liberty, said Padron is one of the more than 23,000 service members, veterans and military spouses who are making a difference all over the world.
“Liberty University’s goal to train Champions for Christ has truly been realized through our military population,” she said. “Many of our students are using their education to enable them to minister to fellow service members and to make a difference for Christ wherever He takes them.”