November 30, 2022 : By Christian Shields - Office of Communications & Public Engagement
Because of his dedication and work ethic, Liberty University Army ROTC cadet Jacob Novak was presented the annual Maj. Michael J. Donahue Award during the start of the 14th Annual Valley View Mike Donahue 5-Miler on Nov. 12.
Donahue was an assistant professor of military science for Liberty’s Army ROTC program from August 2008 to July 2010, during which time he completed his master’s degree in education and most of his Ed.D. He died in a Taliban attack in 2014 while serving on a U.S. military base outside Kabul, Afghanistan. Liberty’s Campus Recreation Department, in conjunction with the Office of Military Affairs, holds the race in his honor every November as part of the university’s Military Appreciation Month events. Novak ran the race, held on the Liberty Mountain Trail System at the Hydaway Outdoor Center, with several of his fellow ROTC cadets. The race drew 105 runners and 200 total attendees.“The fact that they chose me was very humbling,” Novak said about receiving the award named after Donahue. “I was incredibly thankful for the opportunity that they would think so highly of me.”
Novak, a senior mechanical engineering student, is in his third year at Liberty and plans to graduate in May 2023. He will be commissioned with a four-year contract following graduation.
In addition to the award, Novak received a $1,000 scholarship. (For a variety of reasons, he was not able to receive the typical scholarship available to ROTC students, so Novak said this scholarship will be greatly benefit him.)
“It’s a huge blessing,” he said. “I’m super thankful to have it.”
Novak, originally from Rocky Mount, N.C., attended Bryan College in Dayton, Tenn., after high school but decided to transfer during the COVID-19 pandemic. Novak felt the Lord calling him to the military.
“I wanted to do the Reserve Officer Training Corps, ROTC, and I wanted to do it at a Christian University,” Novak said. “Liberty met both of those requirements. They have a really, really good Army ROTC program. It’s a great school. I love it here.”
Throughout his time on Liberty’s campus, Novak has seen the focus and support that the university gives to military students. Whether it is the care he receives from his professors or simply people expressing gratitude for his decision to join the military, Novak said he feels supported at Liberty.
“The school in general is just very, very, military friendly,” he said. “I constantly get thanked or feel respect from people around me when they hear (about my service). I haven’t had a single negative interaction in my three years regarding my affiliation with the military. That’s been a huge blessing, and I know not everywhere is like that. It’s a tremendous privilege to come to a place that is (like that).”
As a full-time student in ROTC, Novak juggles a number of responsibilities in a full schedule, sometimes requiring him to leave his apartment at 4 a.m. and not return until 8-9 p.m.
In order to combat the daunting task of time management, Novak chooses to emphasize hard work and discipline.
“Everybody has those days where they’re swamped and bogged down with projects and papers and stuff,” he said. “I think the most important thing to remember is you remember what you’re here for. You’re here to get that education, you’re here to glorify the Lord. And then you just have to hunker down and do it. You may not want to, you may not want to be studying for however many hours in the day, but it’s definitely necessary.”
In addition to hard work, he said that he has also learned the importance of taking a Sabbath to rest.
“God set things up for a reason, and that was certainly one of those that when you intentionally take that time out of your week to not focus on school, not focus on everything else that’s going on and focus on your relationship with the Lord, that is huge when it comes to preparing you for the rest of the week,” he said.
While Novak currently does not know where he will be commissioned in May, he hopes to serve in Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., in the engineer branch of the Army.
Liberty observes every November as Military Appreciation Month, with the Office of Military Affairs offering various opportunities throughout the month to recognize military service.