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Christian school administrator says online degree helped him transition from military to ministry

Mike Cherry served in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years.

Traveling extensively as an aircraft loadmaster in the U.S. Air Force, Mike Cherry (’10) still found a way to juggle his academic endeavors while on active duty.

He enjoyed defending America’s freedom around the world, visiting over 75 countries during his extensive 20-year Air Force career, but Cherry knew God was calling him to full-time ministry. This calling led him to Liberty University’s online program.

“It would have been very difficult for me to go to school because of my active-duty career, but Liberty made it so easy for me to complete school in a timely manner,” said Cherry, who earned a bachelor’s degree in religion and biblical studies. “It was awesome. … Liberty was a great fit for me because of the distance learning program, and because I could take classes anywhere.”

Cherry said he chose Liberty because of the faith-based nature of the school, the theological credibility, and the accommodations and support that Liberty Online presents to service members through its Military Affairs Office.

“It cost me nothing out of pocket because of the great programs Liberty offered in order for me to finish my degree,” he said. “It was so convenient for me. It was such a great experience.”

Cherry is currently the head of school for Life Christian Academy, a preschool through 12th grade institution in South Chesterfield, Va. Under his leadership, the school has grown from 110 to 270 students and has achieved national success in its athletics programs. He also serves as a staff pastor with the academy’s affiliate, Life Church.

Mike Cherry completed his degree in 2010.

“As a full-time pastor running a Christian school, Liberty has very much equipped me for everything I needed to know to be able to perform in that capacity,” Cherry said. “… I chose Liberty for my undergrad degree based on a few factors, most notably because of the strong Biblical training that I would receive as I was feeling a call to full-time ministry. … I recommended the Distance Learning Program to many of my fellow service members, and many chose that route due to my experience as a student, even if they were not looking specifically for a biblical studies program.”

After graduating high school in 1990, Cherry joined the United States Air Force. In 20 years, he advanced through the ranks as a load master on C-141B and C-17A aircraft, retiring as a master sergeant. Throughout his military career, his assignments earned him several decorative awards.

Cherry’s newest challenge is pursuing the office of delegate for Virginia’s 66th district (replacing retiring Republican delegate Kirk Cox, who has held the seat since 1990.)

“With his endorsement, I’m running to hopefully be his replacement and to keep this as a strong conservative seat that espouses, at least for me, our Christian values,” he said. “The reason behind it is to make a difference in the Commonwealth. I’ve spent 20 years in the Air Force defending freedom, I want to continue to make difference in the community.”

Cherry said that his Christian faith will influence his decision making.

“My faith gives me character, morals, and integrity,” he said. “Even if you don’t necessarily espouse the same faith, I think we can all agree that someone running with character and integrity is a win-win for the Commonwealth.”

Mike Cherry alongside his wife Teresa.

He is currently serving on City Council in Colonial Heights and as a volunteer police chaplain for the Colonial Heights Police Department. He has participated in peer-to-peer counseling for officers who have been through traumatic experiences and has issued death notifications for families.

Cherry said the big issues that he hopes to engage as delegate are education reform, law enforcement support, and individual liberty.

“Individual rights and freedoms are coming under attack more frequently,” he said. “Our First and Second Amendment rights are being stripped away at an astounding pace. I want to defend the Constitution and to return our individuals rights and liberties back to the citizens, where they belong. My philosophy of government is that we are all better off the less we interact with government.”

Cherry has been married to his high school sweetheart, Teresa, for 30 years. They have two children: Jonathan, who is serving in the Air Force, and Madison, currently a teacher at Life Christian.

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