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A Special Salute

By Ted Allen, May 31, 2015

More than 300 military members of Liberty University’s Class of 2015 participated in the fourth annual Military Graduate Recognition Ceremony held in the Vines Center on the evening before Commencement (read the Commencement story).

Liberty faculty, staff, and members of administration saluted the 5,400 members of the military and their spouses — both those present and those unable to attend due to their military obligations. This year’s military graduates represented more than 30 percent of Liberty’s entire graduating class.

Maj. Gen. Robert F. Dees, U.S. Army (retired), Liberty’s associate vice president for military outreach, delivered the charge to the graduates, encouraging them to shine brightly in a darkening world.

“I challenge you as parting graduates, as Champions for Christ, to remember what you’ve learned, what you experienced within the light of the lamp of learning at Liberty University, so that when you encounter darkness, when you encounter difficulties in your life and in your service, ‘You will not be tempted to doubt in the dark what you knew to be true in the light,’” he said, quoting Robert Preston Taylor, an Army chaplain who was captured and imprisoned in the Philippines during World War II.

Dees expressed his appreciation for the military graduates’ service as well as their commitment to their education.

“God bless you and your families and this great nation, which you serve so faithfully,” he said. “You have underwritten the freedoms that we enjoy with your very lives. Without you, we would not be the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Dees also commended Liberty’s Office of Military Affairs, which has helped make the university one of the most military friendly institutions in the nation.

Appropriately, as May 8 was also Military Spouse Appreciation Day, Liberty held its first Military Spouse Graduate Recognition service. Kathleen Dees, wife of Maj. Gen. Dees, addressed the graduates. That ceremony also featured remarks from Dr. Ronald Hawkins, Liberty’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, and patriotic music from Charles Billingsley.

Earlier in the day, Liberty’s Army and Air Force ROTC units held separate commissioning ceremonies. At the Army ROTC ceremony, rising senior Army Cadet Aaron York, a criminal justice major from Harrisburg, Pa., was the first recipient of the Major Michael J. Donahue Award. Named in honor of the former Liberty faculty member and alumnus who was killed Sept. 17, 2014, in a Taliban attack on a U.S. military base outside Kabul, Afghanistan, the award will be presented annually to a second- or third-year Army ROTC cadet who has provided leadership and inspiration to others through his or her unmatched selflessness, work ethic, and integrity. York was one of a record class of 24 cadets commissioned to the rank of second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Four Air Force ROTC cadets were also commissioned to the same rank.

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