When autocomplete options are available, use up and down arrows to review and enter to select.
Apply Give

Military students recognized at pre-Commencement ceremonies

Liberty University welcomed one of the highest-ranking officers it has ever had on campus for Friday morning’s Army ROTC Commissioning Ceremony in the Towns-Alumni Lecture Hall.

Retired U.S. Army Gen. George Casey, who served as senior commander of a Multi-National Force in Iraq from 2004-07 and as the Army’s Chief of Staff from 2007-11, was the featured speaker and offered the 10 graduating cadets a congratulatory handshake after they took their commissioning oaths.

“You are remarkable young scholars, athletes, and leaders,” Casey said. “In the end, it is all about leadership. It’s about leaders of character, ordinary men and women who do extraordinary things. That’s really the story of our Army in history, and it’s the story of the Army you are going into today.”

He challenged the commissioned officers to embody the Warrior Ethos, as he did 47 years ago: “I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade.”

“You are joining an Army that is the best in the world and we are that way because of our values, because of our ethos, and because of our character,” said Casey, who went on to become one of 230 generals in U.S. Army history ever to reach four-star status.

Casey’s visit kicked off a series of ceremonies honoring Liberty’s military graduates on Friday. There are nearly 6,000 graduates with military ties in the Class of 2017, making up greater than 30 percent of the over 18,000 graduates. More than 1,600 military graduates plan to participate in Saturday’s 44th Commencement exercises in Williams Stadium.

The Military Spouse Graduate Recognition Ceremony was staged in the Center for Music and the Worship Arts’ Concert Hall earlier in the day. Appropriately, Friday was Military Spouse Appreciation Day, observed each year on the Friday before Mother’s Day. The Air Force ROTC also held its commissioning ceremony in the Science Hall auditorium.

On Friday night, Liberty held its sixth annual Military Graduate Recognition Ceremony. Retired U.S. Air Force Chaplain, Col. Steven E. Keith, D.Min., director of Liberty’s Center for Chaplaincy, was the keynote speaker.

After the singing of the National Anthem by Sounds of Liberty, attending servicemembers stood for their respective military branch’s stanza of “The Caisson Song,” representing members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.

Col. Keith then charged the military graduates to be on time for the moments of history God has divinely appointed for them and to be on target with their spiritual mission, following the plans He has for each one, wherever He may send them.

“God gives us just a few moments on this planet to do His will,” Keith said, citing James 4:14-15. “The Lord’s Prayer says, ‘Thy will be done.’ Not my will, not your will, God’s will be done.”

He exhorted the military members to surrender their lives to Jesus and to follow His orders as their true Commander in Chief, seizing the day and each opportunity that comes their way.

“If you’re going to make those appointments, if you’re going to be on time for the mission, if you’re going to share the Gospel and the love of Christ, and you’re going to … care for the hopeless and the hurting and the dying, you need to be on time and you need to be on target,” Keith said. “Your life’s a vapor. It appears just for a moment. You’ve got a moment to do the mission.”

The ceremony concluded with the awarding of commemorative Challenge Coins — engraved with images of the Bible, the American flag, and a graduation cap — honoring their service in the military and completion of their respective degrees. The coins were presented to each graduate in attendance by Liberty administrators and faculty members who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Earlier in the day, Army ROTC cadet Camille Dotson, a rising senior in the nursing program who will graduate in December, was the third recipient of the Maj. Michael J. Donahue Award. She will receive a $1,000 scholarship in honor of the former Liberty faculty member and alumnus who was killed in a Sept. 17, 2014, Taliban attack on a U.S. military base near Kabul, Afghanistan. The scholarship is presented annually to the 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. Fellow senior cadets John Hixson, Rob Moretz, and Ben Solem were recognized as distinguished military graduates in the Army ROTC’s graduating class this past fall. The distinction is based on their grade-point average at Liberty, proven leadership in their ROTC unit, extracurricular activities, physical fitness test scores, and public relations and speaking engagements.


Graduates commissioned to the rank of second lieutenant:

U.S. Army:

Alec Gough, Quartermaster Corps

Jonathan Hixson, Field Artillery

Jarett Johnson, Chemical

Jakob Knisely, Field Artillery

Grant McMains, Ordnance

Kelsee Moore, Medical Services

Robert Moretz, Chaplain Candidate

Aaron O’Donnell, Ordnance

Kyle Seeger, Signal Corps

Benjamin Solem, Infantry


U.S. Air Force:

Michael Butler, Pilot Trainee

Robert Etherington, Pilot Trainee

Danielle Gallagher, Personnel Officer

Tyler Johnson, Security Forces Officer

Andrew Walker, Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) Trainee

Nathaniel Young, Pilot Trainee

Steven Sasiela, Base Operations Officer

Mark Lawson, Pilot Trainee

Chat Live Chat Live Request Info Request Info Apply Now Apply Now Visit Liberty Visit Liberty