“Liberty University makes a point to show our appreciation for our veterans and servicemembers every day through our support offices, student groups and university military benefits, but we want to stop and pay special honor to them during this week,” said Emily Foutz, Director of Military Affairs.
Military Emphasis Week is full of activities, ranging from a special convocation (chapel service), a trip to the National D-Day Memorial in nearby Bedford, Va., a candlelight tribute service, military recruiters, pre-game tailgating and halftime tribute during the Nov. 6 home football game, a post-traumatic stress disorder awareness meeting, and a special Veterans Luncheon. Each activity is designed to involve students and faculty in showing support for the military.
This year, Vietnam veteran and member of Liberty’s Board of Trustees Dr. Tim Lee, addressed the crowd of more than 10,000 at the Nov. 10 convocation.
Lee lost both of his legs in 1971 while serving with the United States Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. He views his disability not as a tragedy, but as an opportunity to share God’s love through his evangelical ministry.
“Some of you have been dealt hardships, some of you have had things come at you, and some of you have become bitter, and angry, and mad at God,” said Lee. “My friend, you don’t have to be bitter, you don’t have to be angry, you don’t have to be mad at God; you can have victory right here today.”
Lee said he has never been bitter. “I am lucky to be alive,” he said. “I stepped on a mine that could have blown me to a thousand different pieces, but God spared my life.”
Students also heard from Capt. Scotty Smiley, who became the Army’s first active-duty, blind officer. A graduate of West Point, Smiley was serving as a platoon leader in Iraq in April 2005 when he permanently lost his vision as a result of an attack from a suicide car bomber.
Smiley spoke of the tragedy he faced during combat and, as a result, his bitterness toward God.
“I woke up two weeks later in Walter Reid Army Medical Center with my life torn from me,” he shared. “I said [my world] went black, but it didn’t go black just literally, it went black spiritually.”
The day that Smiley learned that he would be blind for the rest of his life, he said he began to “push forward” and claim the promise of Philippians 4:13, that he could do all things through Christ.
“It doesn’t matter if you are blind ... and it doesn’t matter what disabilities you have, God still has a purpose for each and every one of us.”
Smiley, who has released a book about his life titled Hope Unseen, challenged students to look beyond the trials they face and to cling to the hope they can only find in God.
“I don’t believe that it’s economic hope, I don’t believe it’s social hope, and it’s definitely not political hope; it’s spiritual hope.”