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Liberty University salutes veterans at special Military Appreciation Convocation

Student representatives of all branches of the military participated in the Military Appreciation Convocation at the Center for Music and the Worship Arts Concert Hall. (Photos by Amanda Brush)

Patriotism overflowed the stage during Wednesday’s special Military Appreciation Convocation, streamed from the Center for Music and the Worship Arts Concert Hall in front of an audience of members of Liberty university’s military community.

Liberty President Dr. Jerry Prevo opened the event with a Veterans Day salute to all branches of the U.S. military, followed by a presentation by Liberty’s Air Force ROTC Color Guard and singing of the national anthem by members of Sounds of Liberty.

After leading the crowd and online audience in the Pledge of Allegiance, 1st Sgt. Bill Gross, a current Liberty undergraduate student, was recognized by President Prevo for receiving two combat action ribbons, two Purple Heart Medals, and four Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals and Commendation Medals over the past 15 years of military service.

President Jerry Prevo welcomes guests to the Military Appreciation Convocation.

A portion of the Oct. 30 Convocation was then rebroadcast, featuring a Q & A between Liberty Senior Vice President for Spiritual Development David Nasser and Marine Veteran, Purple Heart recipient, author, and evangelist Tim Lee, a member of Liberty’s Board of Trustees. Lee shared his testimony of being saved at the age of 10 before becoming a rebellious teenager who enlisted in the Marines to get away from his family, including five brothers and his father, a Baptist church pastor.

He told how he was sent to Parris Island, S.C., for his basic training, a site he returns to several times per year to speak to recruits and where he has led thousands to Christ.

Another marine in his squad, Corporal Lee Gore, had a powerful influence on Lee, eventually prompting him to recommit his life to follow God’s purposes.

“He loved God and was living for the Lord,” Lee said of Gore. “I was saved but was running from God. I knew that his story was supposed to be my story, my testimony.”

On March 8, 1971, in South Vietnam, Gore prayed for God to spare Lee’s life after Lee stepped on a 60-pound mine that blew off both of his legs.

“That day, I made a commitment, ‘God, if you let me live, I will do with my life what You want me to do,’” Lee said. “And He let me live. I was in the hospital for eight months, a lot of major surgeries, but God spared my life. I went back home to my dad’s church. I was a prodigal son, and they welcomed me home. There was no condemnation.”

He went on to follow his father’s career path into ministry.

“Now I’m in my 42nd year as an evangelist, traveling all over the country doing what I love to do,” Lee said.

Besides standing for military veterans, Lee is also an advocate for the law enforcement community, especially during a season of unrest in America that has evoked calls for defunding police departments. He challenged Liberty students to pursue careers in law enforcement, as first responders, or in any branch of the military as there is a greater need than ever for men and women of faith in those fields.

Prevo with 1st Sgt. Bill Gross, a Liberty student who was awarded two Purple Hearts and numerous other medals in his past 15 years of service

Wednesday’s Convocation was one of several events planned to honor Liberty’s military students during the university’s annual Military Emphasis Week. Another highlight will be Thursday’s Veterans Reception from 11 am.-2 p.m. in the Veterans Center, located on the second floor of the Montview Student Union. The week’s festivities will conclude with Saturday’s annual Valley View Mike Donahue 5-Miler, part of the Liberty Mountain Trail Series, starting at 9 a.m. from the Hydaway Outdoor Center, and Military Appreciation football game between the Flames and Western Carolina University at noon at Williams Stadium. This year’s George Rogers Champion of Freedom Award winner will be announced during a halftime ceremony.

Before the Military Appreciation portion of Wednesday’s Convocation, Nasser interviewed Flames Football Head Coach Hugh Freeze, quarterback Malik Willis, and placekicker Alex Barbir, who kicked the game-winning 51-yard field goal in Saturday’s 38-35 victory at Virginia Tech.

Freeze said the team’s record 7-0 start and first-ever Top 25 rankings are fulfillments of the vision cast by Liberty founder Dr. Jerry Falwell. He reflected on how God has helped him keep the on-field success in perspective and has restored his career and family over the past few years.

A Sounds of Liberty quartet sang the national anthem.

“His faithfulness is never ending,” Freeze said “It’s new every day. He’s never quit blessing me. I’m thankful for His favor. He’s given me strengths and anointed me to do certain things, and it all comes from Him. I just am determined that as I drive this profession and not let the profession drive me, that we remain humble and in His service for His glory and for His Kingdom.”

Freeze also thanked all of Liberty’s administrators and support staff who have made it possible for the Flames to reach historic heights this season amid a pandemic.

“Trainers, nutritionists, strength staff,” Freeze said. “With this COVID, I feel sorry for those student managers and trainers, the extra hours they have had to spend with all of our COVID testing. It’s been a team effort for sure.”

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