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Institute for Military Resilience Blog

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Starting Over

I love New Years. In fact, it is one of my favorite holidays. There is just something about starting over refreshed and anew that inspires me.

I probably do not celebrate the New Year the way that most people do. First of all, I don’t leave my house. There is nothing for me outside of Church and the grocery store December 22nd through January 1st. I really do not even care about watching the big shiny ball drop on New Year’s Eve, though I do it anyway to appease my family. But, even while I’m watching the ball drop and counting down to the new year in my mind, what I’m really celebrating is a chance to start over.

The next day I wake up bright and early to a healthy breakfast, and I go for a short – and I mean short  jog. I hate running, but hey, maybe this year I’ll catch one of those runner’s highs everyone lies about. After my jog, I shower and begin doing laundry. That’s right, I do laundry as a form of celebration to ring in the New Year, because how can you start over with a hamper full of dirty clothes? Then the real fun begins. I do a deep clean of the entire house, and I throw away or donate anything I can’t or won’t wear or use. Then, I organize all of my storage and tools, and finally, I cook a nice dinner. Over dinner I start to lay out my new plan for the upcoming year with my family. I tell them all the ways that I’ll be a better dad and husband, and each year they believe me, and each year I believe myself. 

Even though I know that I’m probably not going to wake up every morning and drive to the gym in the bitter cold to get my first work out of the day in, and even though I know that I’m not going to keep my house as clean as I want to the whole year, I still love being able to start over. While year after year I meet some goals and fail to meet others, God has always been faithful to bring newness and blessings into my life. He gives me new challenges and the means to meet those challenges head on. He brings new friends into my life that encourage me to fight each and every day to be the best that I can be.

And when I am not my best, God is quick to make me aware that he has not left me and that His grace is sufficient for me. 

Jeremiah writes in Lamentations 3:21-23: “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” As we move into the start of a new semester and a new year, it is my prayer for you that you will continue to strive to be your best, continually resting in the grace and the mercy of a God that wants the very best for you.

“Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6).

About the Author:

Jon Norman served in the United States Army Reserves for twelve years, two of which he spent deployed to Iraq. He currently serves as the Supervisor of the Liberty University Veterans Center, where he enjoys working with Liberty University student veterans as they transition from military service members to civilian students pursuing their education.

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Friday, December 1, 2017

A Heart of Service

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going to work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering. This is your true and proper worship.” - Romans 12: 1 (MSG)

Community is the safe haven through which individuals flourish and as such, Liberty University has welcomed a melting pot of cultures and experience, bringing together a people united under the common goal of reaching the world with the hope of the gospel. Among these groups of commissioned and purposed people are service members, veterans, and families of those who serve or have served, which make up over 30% of the total student population today.

During the month of gratitude, November, the Office of Military Affairs has the opportunity to highlight these individuals and also those in the Greater Lynchburg area through Military Emphasis Week: a string of events focused on honoring the sacrifices of those who have served. From the Military Appreciation Hockey Game on November 4th to the Football Game on November 11th, the University, as a whole, rings of national pride and remembrance. Past and present students, staff, faculty, and community members come from near and far to participate in the camaraderie.

This year’s Military Emphasis Week was a huge success, reaching more individuals than any of the years past. The momentum from the community provided a very unique opportunity for veterans to serve other veterans during some of the slated events and, one after another, men and women voluntarily gave of their time. Despite the fact that this week was meant to venerate their own service, service members and veterans alike chose to embody the commission Jesus gave us to be the hands and feet of the gospel, serving all people as Christ does the church. Their sacrifice and dedication, strength and valor, makes clear that service is not just a part of their names, but rather woven into the core of who they are as people.

Jerome Krejcha (right) at the Veterans Appreciation Reception on Nov. 8 at Liberty University.

Jerome Krejcha, a beloved member of the Liberty community and veteran of the Marine Corps, exemplifies this principle, putting his heart and soul into serving his brothers and sisters in Christ. He not only does so as a staff member at Liberty’s Veterans Center, but also as a volunteer during Military Emphasis Week. He assisted with set-up and break-down needs and personally engaged each and every veteran that attended the Night of Remembrance, Veterans Appreciation Breakfast and Reception, and the College For A Weekend activities. Jerome very well could have chosen to enjoy the various events of Military Emphasis Week as a participant, but he made the conscious decision to encourage and uplift those around him with his witty humor and infectious joy. He went out of his way to lend a hand and make welcome all those who wear and have worn a uniform in service to our great nation. Jerome truly embodies what it means to live a life that reflects Jesus: his words, work, and worship all display God’s goodness and point back to the power of the cross.

When God created those who serve our nation in the armed forces, he instilled in them a special gift – a heart of service – which transcends denominations and ethnicities, experiences and locations. Even after their tenure with the military has come to an end, they continue their commitment to serving God’s people. Jerome and his compatriots remind us to think of ourselves less and devote time to God’s kingdom purpose through loving His people. When we do so, our hearts are then transformed into the likeness of Christ.

“Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

About the Author:

Cailah Garcia Lopez serves as the Office of Military Affairs Outreach Coordinator, partnering with and equipping military affiliated students, staff, and faculty as they pursue their educational and personal goals. Through student focused event planning and community engagement,  she facilitates intentional spaces where service members, veterans, and their families can interact with those who share in their experiences and love of country. Cailah is the granddaughter, sister, and niece to several Air Force and Army veterans and holds her Bachelor of Arts in English from Rollins College. She has a passion for student success and higher education and in her spare time, plays guitar, leads worship, and spends time with her incredible husband, Gabe. 

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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Champions of Freedom

What does it mean to be a “Champion of Freedom”?

Each year, Liberty University collects nominations for a military veteran who epitomizes what it means to be a “Champion of Freedom”. A person who honorably served in the United States Armed Forces. A person who went above the call of duty and displayed extraordinary service and heroism. A person who continues to serve in their community today.

Nominations are reviewed by a selection committee and then the winner is announced during Military Emphasis Week at the Military Appreciation Football Game during half-time. This year the game will be on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, and will serve as a fitting bookend to a week devoted to honoring our nation’s service members and veterans.

Liberty University Institute for Military Resilience November 2017 Blog.

Click the photo to tweet about this! 

But what does it mean to be a “Champion of Freedom”? The award’s namesake and first winner from 2010 is Mr. George Rogers, a WWII prisoner of war and survivor of the Bataan Death March. Due to the severe starvation and abuse he suffered, he was told he would never be able to have children and would likely die by the age of 40. Mr. Rogers defied those odds and lives today as a 98 year old father of five children.

Many past award winners have been Purple Heart recipients. Mr. Oliver North, the award winner in 2014, received two Purple Hearts during his service in Vietnam. Mr. Steve Bozeman, the 2011 recipient, earned two Purple Hearts while serving Vietnam for incredibly courageous acts of heroism and bravery. He is now a passionate advocate and community leader for the veterans in Lynchburg, VA. Mr. Tim Lee, the award winner in 2012, gave both of his legs in Vietnam and Lieutenant Clebe McClary, winner in 2013, lost his left arm and eye in Vietnam as well. These men continue to make a difference in their communities today, using their stories to inspire, raise awareness, and spread the love of God.

The most recent award winners are no longer with us today. Major Mike Donahue was the first posthumous award winner in 2015 and had a special connection to Liberty University. He served as an ROTC professor from 2008-2010 and gave his life in Afghanistan on Sept. 16, 2014. Last year’s award winner, Chaplain Lieutenant Colonel Charlie Davidson was the first Air Force chaplain to set foot on the soil of Baghdad, Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom and ministered to the men and women serving there with incredible bravery and valor. He passed away in April of this year.

As we near the announcement of this year’s Champion of Freedom award winner and look back on the incredible individuals who have received this award in the past, I am reminded of Hebrews 12: 1-2:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

These men ran, and some are still running, the race set before them. We are so lucky to have encountered these champions of freedom, to have been inspired by their acts of bravery, challenged by their commitment to service, and to have received their imparted wisdom that can only come from living a life of great purpose. What a privilege it is to live among and recognize such individuals as this through the George Rogers Champion of Freedom Award.

About the Author:

Amanda Mitchell is the Office of Military Affairs Project Specialist, working on special projects and communication initiatives to help connect military students with each other and with the Office of Military Affairs. Amanda is the daughter of a retired Air Force veteran and recently completed the Master of Arts in Strategic Communications with Liberty University. She loves having the opportunity to use her education to serve a population near and dear to her heart - military service members, veterans, and their families studying at Liberty University. 

Posted at 12:08 PM | Comments (0) | Permalink

Monday, October 2, 2017

Lynchburg's Veterans Day Parade

For the first time in 79 years, the city of Lynchburg will hold a Veterans Day parade on November 11, 2017.

A parade is a time-honored way of recognizing the heroes among us and celebrating the sacrifice of our service members and veterans. Liberty University’s campus has been chosen as the location for this historical event to take place and we are so excited for the opportunity to be involved.

Retired Air Force Colonel Charles Olson, President of the Lynchburg Area Veterans Council (LAVC), recently wrote the below post describing the history and purpose behind Lynchburg’s Veterans Day Parade and I wanted to share it with our students:


It’s Time to Get Serious about Lynchburg’s Veterans Day Parade


We have been promoting this as the “first Veterans Day Parade in Lynchburg in 79 years” because the last parade was 1938. It’s now time for some perspective… this was between WW I and WW II, technically the 1938 parade was for the WW I veterans of which Monument Terrace honors.  On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, an armistice was declared between the Allied nations and Germany in the First World War, then known as “the Great War.” That event was commemorated as “Armistice Day” the following year.  It was 20 years later that November 11th became a legal federal holiday in the United States in 1938. This was the date Lynchburg had a parade, and this was the last Veterans Parade in Lynchburg Virginia! 

It is unbelievable that our WW II veterans have not been in a local parade honoring their sacrifice.  World War II was the deadliest military conflict in history in absolute terms of total casualties. An estimated 60 million - 80 million people were killed worldwide during WW II.  The U.S. was the last of the major combatants to enter the war when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Yet this hardly spared the nation from horrific casualties. The total U.S. causalities are estimated at 291,557.  That is an average 220 personnel dying per day, nearly 6,600 every month, for the 1,364 consecutive days the U.S. fought in the war.  Added to the nearly 300,000 combat deaths are 670,846 service members who suffered non-mortal wounds. 

The Korean War began when North Korea invaded South Korea. The United Nations, with the United States as the principal force, came to the aid of South Korea. China came to the aid of North Korea, and the Soviet Union gave some assistance.  The war was initially described by President Harry S. Truman as a "police action" as it was an undeclared military action.  It has been referred to as "The Forgotten War" because of the lack of public attention it received both during and after the war.  The Pentagon calculated Korean War battle deaths at 33,652 and non-battle deaths at 3,262 (a total of 36,914 U.S. casualties).

The American effort during World War II (1941-1945) saw the greatest mobilization of the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force in the nation’s history (more than 16 million people); some 5.7 million more served in the Korean War (1950 to 1953). In the aftermath of World War II and the Korean War, Armistice Day became Veterans Day, a holiday dedicated to American veterans of all wars.  In 1954, after lobbying efforts by veterans’ service organizations, the 83rd U.S. Congress amended the 1938 act that had made Armistice Day a holiday, striking the word “Armistice” in favor of “Veterans.” President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the legislation on June 1, 1954. From then on, November 11 became a day to honor American veterans of all wars. I am on very safe ground stating that Lynchburg has never had a Veterans’ Day Parade and it’s about time!

The Vietnam War was a long, costly armed conflict that pitted the communist regime of North Vietnam and its southern allies.  The divisive war, increasingly unpopular at home, ended with the withdrawal of U.S. forces in 1973 and the unification of Vietnam under Communist control two years later. More than 3 million people, including 58,000 Americans, were killed in that conflict.

The Cold War spanned from September 1945 to December 26, 1991, was global in nature, and had many facets and changing strategic considerations. Many of the losses in the Cold War were on missions that are still under the veil of total secrecy.  As estimated by the American Cold War Veterans, at least 389 soldiers were killed in the line of duty with 123 are still classified as Missing in Action (MIA).  The true extent of Cold War casualties is unknown, but taking in to consideration the results of U.S. and Soviet support proxies across the globe, the true death toll is likely many millions. 

The Persian Gulf War began on August 2, 1990, when approximately 100,000 Iraqi Army troops crossed the Kuwaiti border.  Operation Desert Storm was waged by coalition forces from 35 nations led by the United States.  On February 28, 1991, a mere 100 hours after the coalition launched its ground offensive; U.S. Central Command liberated Kuwait and halted offensive operations.  The United States deployed 694,550 service members to Gulf War and suffered 382 military casualties.

The Global War on Terror began shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.  This led to military action in Afghanistan and the second invasion of Iraq, which ultimately toppled dictator Saddam Hussein. To this day, American troops are fighting against extremist groups in Iraq and Afghanistan. As of 28 May 2017 (Memorial Day), there were 6,915 battle casualties and still climbing.  The true death total of this ongoing war is deeply insidious as many veterans quietly suffer with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  In 2012, an estimated 6,500 former military personnel died by suicide, and a year later the United States Department of Veterans Affairs released a study which showed that roughly 22 veterans were dying by suicide per day, or one every 65 minutes.


The cost of our freedom is too high!  This year we will have a Veterans Day Parade in Lynchburg Virginia and We Will Not Fail Them!  

You can follow LAVC on Facebook to see where this was originally posted and also learn more about the parade and other events in the local community.

Liberty University’s Student Veterans Association and Students Behind our Military will be assisting the Lynchburg Area Veterans Council by helping them set up and organize the Parade, and we need your help. If you would like to sign up to volunteer for the Veterans Day Parade you can click here to do so (update: the sign-up list has now been closed). I look forward to serving alongside you and celebrating our nation’s veterans!

About the Author:

Jon Norman served in the United States Army Reserves for twelve years, two of which he spent deployed to Iraq. He currently serves as the Supervisor of the Liberty University Veterans Center where he enjoys working with Liberty University student veterans as they transition from military to civilian life as students pursuing their education.

Posted at 10:41 AM | Comments (0) | Permalink

Friday, September 1, 2017

Patriot Day

Patriot Day - We will never forget.
Patriot Day is a day that is set aside to honor the memory of nearly 3,000 people who died during one of the most horrific terrorist attacks in our nation’s history. 

Do you remember what you were doing on September 11, 2001?   

This day will be forever etched in my mind.  I remember the day as though it were yesterday.  I was serving in the Navy and we were preparing for a major court martial that was scheduled to begin a little after 9:00am.  As I was busy getting everyone where they needed to be in order to start the trial on time, one of the witnesses called me into the visitor waiting room and together we watched in utter disbelief as the second plane hit the Twin Towers.  I instantly knew this was not a coincidence but a terrorist attack. Many stopped working and gathered around a television or a computer to hear updates on the attacks in New York City, Washington, DC and in Pennsylvania. 

Liberty University Institute for Military Resilience September 2017 Blog.

Click the photo to tweet about this! 

My heart was broken as I cried with the rest of America.  The painful reality of what had just occurred began to sink in. Every channel on television carried the news of what had occurred in those short minutes and repeatedly we watched the photos of the planes hitting the towers, the huge crater in the ground in Shanksville, PA and the photos of the Pentagon.  Later that week, I would learn that I lost three very special people in those attacks.  I remember trying to explain to my then eight-year-old son what had happened.  I also remember him trying to understand why anyone would want to do such a horrible thing in America because “it was the best place to live.”

2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."  As a nation, we came together.  Churches filled with believers who fell on their knees before the Lord and asked for His mercy on our country, while many who did not believe in Jesus came for comfort and wanted to understand.  During this time, many people came to know Christ and Christians re-dedicated their lives to the Lord.

Since this time, memorials have been built to honor the memory of the lives lost and somehow families and friends have begun the process of healing and moving forward.  On this day of remembrance, would you take a few moments and join us as we pray for our country that we would turn from our wickedness and turn back to Him?  Would you also pray for those who lost loved ones during this painful day?  Pray that we will continue to move forward, not wavering and praying for those who still have not accepted Christ’s gift of salvation. 

About the Author:

Kathi Kuenzi is a retired veteran of the United States Navy and the Military Outreach Coordinator in Liberty University's Office of Military Affairs. She enjoys her job serving service members and veterans and planning military appreciation events on campus throughout the year. She recently completed her J.M. in American Legal Studies with the Liberty University School of Law.

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