When Tyler Anderson walked across the stage to claim his diploma at spring commencement May 3, he was marking more than just the completion of his undergraduate studies.
It also marked a celebration of life.
U.S. Army SSGT Anderson’s journey to that moment in Allen Arena is one that was often filled with challenges and interesting bends in the road. It is a moment that almost didn’t happen.
A native of Grundy County, Tenn., Anderson followed his passion to serve his country to enlist in the Army following high school. In 2006, he went to boot camp in Fort Benning, Ga. Once becoming an airborne infantryman, Anderson deployed twice to Afghanistan, serving as a rifleman, a sniper, grenadier (M-203), machine gunner (M249/M240B), team leader and squad leader.
During his first deployment, Anderson re-enlisted for an additional three years. On April 8, 2010, while conducting routine combat operations, he stepped on an IED resulting in the amputation of a portion of his left leg. Following months of recovery at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., Anderson received a prosthetic leg enabling him to pursue some of his favorite activities including running, scuba diving, wakeboarding and Brazilian jujitsu.
Following his injury, Anderson was selected to receive a scholarship from the Sentinels of Freedom Scholarship Foundation, whose mission is to assist severely wounded, post-9/11 veterans in their efforts to become productive and self-sufficient members of their communities as they transition back into civilian life.
He enrolled in Lipscomb University in August 2011, becoming one of the first two sentinels in school history to enroll. Since that time, a total of four Sentinels of Freedom scholarship recipients have enrolled at Lipscomb.
Anderson said Lipscomb provided a good place for him to begin the next chapter in his journey.
“This has been an awesome experience,” said Anderson, who majored in business and Spanish at Lipscomb. “The faculty and staff have been very helpful and understanding when I have needed it the most. They are very personally involved in the lives of their students.”
Anderson said that the veterans services office, led by interim director April Herrington, have made his experience at Lipscomb an easy transition from the battlefield to the classroom.
“They are the unsung heroes,” he said. “They are here for every student veteran and are a great resource for anything we need.”
Anderson said his wife, Janine, was also a “great supporter” through his pursuit of a degree.
Earning a college degree is a goal that Anderson has carried with him from an early age.
“My grandfather never had the opportunity to get much education,” he recalls. “He always stressed the importance of getting a degree. I am now the second person in my family to get a college degree.”
Anderson, who is pursuing a career as a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, was one of 22 veterans to graduate this May. Each of these graduates maintained a 3.0 GPA, for which they were inducted into the SALUTE Veterans National Honor Society.
Since its inception in 2009, Lipscomb’s veterans services program has served more than 500 students. Including the Class of 2014 students, the program has graduated 128 veterans. More than 200 veterans were enrolled at Lipscomb this past spring semester.
“The program continues to grow because our students have had a good experience at Lipscomb,” said Herrington. “They spread the word. Part of it is also that Lipscomb has made a commitment to our veterans by providing a veterans’ services office that is a resource for them and a place that they can interact with each other. Lipscomb is a welcoming environment that helps our veterans get their degrees.”
“We try to create an inviting environment for our veteran students to call their home away from home and to help our students slowly transition from military to civilian life.”
Student veterans have performed well academically with 71 percent of currently enrolled student veterans maintaining a minimum 3.0 GPA, with 13 percent of those maintaining a perfect 4.0 GPA. This semester, more than 200 student veterans are enrolled at Lipscomb University.
For veterans who qualify for 100 percent of the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits Lipscomb University has committed to allocate the necessary funds to allow them to earn a tuition-free undergraduate degree through the Yellow Ribbon Enhancement Program. The university also offers qualifying student veterans a variety of graduate degrees tuition-free or at a greatly reduced tuition rate.
For more information about Lipscomb University’s veteran services program, call 615.966.1013 or visit veterans.lipscomb.edu.