Fall commencement pays tribute to military

BUIES CREEK – Campbell University’s fall 2011 commencement served as a tribute to the U.S. military in several ways Saturday morning.

On the 40th anniversary of the birth of the University’s ROTC program, the graduation ceremony – held at the John W. Pope Jr. Convocation Center – included several graduates who have either served or will serve in the military, and the commencement address was given by one of Fort Liberty’s most highly decorated officers.

Maj. Gen. Rodney O. Anderson spoke to the graduating class of 328 students, urging them to continue developing their goals, attributes and skills in order to become “strong Americans.”

“As we approach the new year, I hope you consider doing more than just a resolution,” said Anderson, the deputy commanding general of the XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg. “Write down those goals, those enabling attributes and those related skills you need for success. … America is strong because of one fundamental reason. Because you are strong.”

Five Campbell ROTC cadets received their commission as a U.S. Army officer Saturday, meaning they can now begin a career in either the active Army or Reserve/National Guard. Those cadets were Jeremy Combs, Kyle Gaskill, Thomas Minor, Chad Patton and Michael Sullivan. Total, more than 1,000 soldiers have received their commission through Campbell’s ROTC program.

It’s been six years that I’ve been working toward this goal through the Army,” said Sullivan. “So this is significant.”

Karen Gaskill, mother of cadet Kyle Gaskill, said she was proud of her son, the first in their family to join the armed forces.

“He was accepted to the Citadel, but he chose Campbell,” Gaskill said. “He’s developed lasting friendships here, and most of those commissioned were his roommates.”

As Anderson pointed out, many Campbell students over the years have served in recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Saturday’s commencement came on the heels of the official end to the Iraq War, a battle that last nearly nine years.

Campbell’s 328 graduates represented all six of the University’s schools – the College of Arts & Sciences, the Lundy-Fetterman School of Business, the College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences, the School of Education, the Divinity School and the Norman A. Wiggins School of Law. A packed Convocation Center was filled with proud family members and friends, many of whom shouted, cheered, clapped and cried during the over two-hour ceremony.

“We’re very proud. This is the result of a lot of hard work, a lot of time and support,” said Jason Bray, husband of Katie Bray, a Master of Education graduate. “This is a huge accomplishment and will open a lot of doors. It’s definitely worth the time and effort.”

Photo by Bennett Scarborough