May 18, 2018 : By Drew Menard - Liberty University News Service
Chaplain Col. Dr. Steven Keith, USAF Ret., director of Liberty University’s Center for Chaplaincy in the Rawlings School of Divinity, challenged the crowd in the Vines Center for Friday night’s annual Military Graduate Recognition Ceremony to take their degrees and answer God’s calling to be His ambassadors and world-changers.
“As military members, we are sent around the world and we must be willing to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and be the light of the world,” said Keith, who, with his wife and five children, relocated 15 times around the world throughout his 30-year career as an active duty Air Force chaplain. “God has divine appointments set up for you. He’s the King of Kings; He’s the Lord of Lords; He’s the Commander in Chief. He has called us to be His missionaries, His voice.”
He exhorted the graduating military service members to thank God, as well as family and friends who supported them along the path to graduation, and to dedicate their lives in service to Him.
“Jesus says, ‘Well done,’ but He also says, ‘Are you all in?’” Keith said. “Our prayer tonight is that you will say, ‘I’m going to take this degree and take my life and use it for the Lord. I’m all in and I want to go wherever You want me to go. I want to do whatever You want me to do. Whatever divine appointment You have for me, I want to meet.’”
A total of 6,219 military service members, veterans, military spouses, and others with military ties will graduate on Saturday, more than 30 percent of the Class of 2018. Approximately 1,850 of those are expected to participate in Liberty’s 45th Commencement Exercises at Williams Stadium.
With over 30,000 active military service members, veterans, and military spouses currently pursuing degrees while stationed around the world, Liberty ranks No. 7 among private institutions on the 2018-19 Military Friendly schools list.
Friday night’s ceremony concluded with the awarding of commemorative coins — engraved with images of the Bible, representing Liberty’s commitment to teaching the Word of God and founder Dr. Jerry Falwell’s vision of Training Champions for Christ; the American flag, signifying the sacrifice for freedom the military service members make every day; and a graduation cap, honoring the completion of their respective degrees. The coins were presented to each graduate in attendance by Liberty administrators and faculty members who have served in their respective branches of the U.S. Armed Forces: Army — Lt. Col. David Dinsmore, Ret.; Lt. Col. Stephen Parke, Ret.; Marine Corps — Dr. Allen Harper, Executive Director of Liberty’s Center for Cyber Excellence; Air Force — Dr. Keith, Chaplain, Col., Ret.; Lt. Col. Robert Young, Ret.; Navy and Coast Guard — Lt. Cmdr. James Long, Ret.; Cmd. CM Michael Reese; Lt. Cmdr. William Waddell, Ret.
A large portion of Liberty’s 1,918 graduating spouses of military personnel were honored at the fourth annual Military Spouse Graduate Recognition Ceremony held earlier in the day in the Center for Music and the Worship Arts, Concert Hall. Dr. Laurel Shaler, a military spouse and director of Liberty’s Master of Arts in Professional Counseling program, served as the keynote speaker.
Both events were organized by the Office of Military Affairs.
Two commissioning ceremonies also took place on Friday for graduating cadets of Liberty’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) programs. Students from Liberty’s Army ROTC Eagle Battalion were sworn in as second lieutenants at a ceremony in the Concert Hall. Each graduating cadet took an oath of office and was presented with a pin signifying their rank before receiving their first salute from an attending officer or military family member. Eleven members of Liberty’s U.S. Air Force ROTC Detachment 890 were commissioned at a ceremony at the University of Virginia.
Commissioned to the rank of second lieutenant, U.S. Army:
Edwin Anderson, Medical Services
Matthew Antonio, Field Artillery
Evan Canady, Adjutant General
Leighton Chambers, Engineer
Dylan Childers, Transportation
Garrett Crawford, Ordnance
David Evans, Military Intelligence — Infantry
Clay Goupil, Transportation
Malachi Maness, Armor
Allen Rivers, Field Artillery
Adam Robinson, Signal
Jacob Stumme, Aviation
Commissioned to the rank of second lieutenant, U.S. Air Force:
Thomas Brandon, Security Forces
Caelan Campbell, Contracting
James Carignan, Pilot
Joseph Celona, Nurse
Aaron Gardner, Aircraft Maintenance
Joshua Graves, Cyber
Thomas Greene, Acquisitions
Tristan Landon, Pilot
Terrance Polk, Pilot
Sander Smith, Pilot
Blaine Wycoff, Pilot