Military members honored at special Commencement events

By Ron Brown, June 20, 2012

On Liberty’s graduation weekend, Army 1st Lt. Alex Woody proudly marched to the front of Thomas Road Baptist Church’s Bruner Hall to swear in his wife, Brandy, as a new Army officer.

As he raised his right hand, a blue bandage covered most of his arm.

Several weeks ago, he never thought he would be present for the commissioning ceremony for new Army officers conducted by the Liberty University Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC).

That was before he was wounded in combat in Afghanistan.His injury served as a vivid reminder that America’s young men and women in the military are putting their lives on the line daily.

“I was just doing my job, Sir,” he said.

Administering the oath of office to his wife, Brandy, 1st Lt. Alex Woody, a 2010 Liberty graduate, punctuated the school’s enduring relationship with its military students and their families.

This year military graduates walked in Liberty’s largest Commencement in their uniforms and not the more customary regalia. As of graduation day, more than 23,000 members of the armed forces were enrolled in Liberty’s educational programs from duty stations around the globe. Military students comprise about one-third of Liberty’s online enrollment.

Some, like Army Chief Warrant Officer Todd Leggroan, were able to attend graduation this year, while others were serving abroad.

After being deployed eight times in the last decade to combat in either Iraq or Afghanistan, Leggroan said he remains committed to Liberty’s biblical worldview.

Quoting Isaiah 6:8, he said, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me.’”

In 2012, Liberty has ramped up its appreciation events for service members and their families. Earlier this spring, the school held an event at the Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre for military families.

This year, 25 new Army officers and eight new Air Force officers were commissioned out of the Liberty ROTC program to the rank of second lieutenant.

In addition to the customary ROTC commissioning ceremonies, Liberty held an event honoring military graduates on the evening before Commencement.

“We want to say, in a very special way, that it is our honor to honor you,” Liberty Vice Provost Ron Hawkins told the gathering of military graduates. “You are a select group within an outstanding group of graduates. … You are special to us.”

Hawkins emphasized that Liberty is in it for the long haul with its military students. “As long as we have breath, we are here for you,” he said. “We always want to be part of your healing.”
Liberty will be providing a video of the Military Graduate Recognition Ceremony to those who are deployed and could not attend.

Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Dave Young, now dean of the Liberty University School of Aeronautics, remembers the first time he met the Rev. Jerry Falwell, who came to a prayer breakfast at a Shreveport, La., base Young was commanding.

Falwell was impressed by the structure and the organization that the military provided and told Young to give him a call when he decided to end his military career.

“Dr. Falwell was tremendously supportive of the military,” Young said. “He was a very patriotic person.”

Several years later, Young came to Lynchburg and became an integral part of Liberty’s finance and management team. Along the way, a lot of former military officers became part of the fabric of Liberty’s administration.

Many, like Young and former Navy Capt. Ernie Rogers, greeted military graduates and gave them commemorative coins during the military graduate recognition event.

Young remembered driving the Rev. Falwell around in his command car, while those on the base saluted the car.

“See Dr. Falwell, they are saluting you,” Young joked. “They know who you are.”

2012 graduates commissioned to the rank of second lieutenant, U.S. Army:

Philip Berry

Andrew Bibb

David Budd

J.T. Cederberg

Sarah Beth Chittwood

Austin Coombs

Jonathan Cox

Ashley Fielding

David Flickinger

Luke Flowers

Ashton Jacobs

Benjamin Kelly

Israel Kim

Samuel Likens

Isaiah Luce

Bryan Malizzi

Carl Moulton

Robert Penn

Mark Sopkiw

Logan Springer

Matthew Strachan

Timothy Taylor

Joseph Velez

Jordan Wilson

Brandy Woody

2012 graduates commissioned to the rank of second lieutenant, U.S. Air Force:

Jared Abramowicz

Nathaniel Cromer

Arielle Marino

Molly Morrissey

Jesse Moser

Jessica Vaughn

Jayson Warren

Luke Williams

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