Missouri Military Academy recently announced the plan of events for its 124th Commencement May 24-25. The weekend includes awards ceremonies, military reviews, special events for seniors and a graduation ceremony. The events culminate in a Final Formation, a traditional goodbye that is held on front campus.
The 2013 Commencement speaker will be Colonel John C. Church Jr., USMC. Colonel Church is an Assistant Professor of English and Communication at Immaculata University. Prior to returning to the classroom John was the first President in the 75-year history of Valley Forge Military College. He is a colonel in the Marine Reserves. In 2010 he returned to Valley Forge to assume the presidency after distinguished service with the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, where he coordinated civil-military operations for the commanding general and his staff. Prior to that assignment, he commanded a combined, joint Civil Affairs unit, leading Marines, soldiers, sailors, and Iraqi civilians in Ar Ramadi, Iraq. His work with the “Al Anbar Awakening” has taken on historic importance. Colonel Church enlisted from Detroit and served as an active duty U.S. Navy deck seaman and hospital corpsman assigned to the Marines. He attended the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, Rhode Island, and earned a Secretary of the Navy appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy.
On active duty, Colonel Church served at 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion in Okinawa, Japan, and 1st Combat Engineer Battalion in Mogadishu, Somalia. He also served at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina, and Headquarters U. S. Marine Corps at the Pentagon. As a reservist, Colonel Church commanded Company C, 4th Combat Engineer Battalion in Lynchburg, Virginia, from where he led his Marines to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. With 4th Civil Affairs Group, Colonel Church served in Kosovo, two tours of duty in Iraq, and his most recent assignment in Afghanistan. He also taught Armed Forces of Liberia soldiers civil-military relationship training in that Africa nation.
After leaving active duty, John taught at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, the U. S. Naval War College, and George Mason University. Before returning to the classroom, he was, first, an assistant professor of leadership at Valley Forge Military College. He then became dean, and led the charge to accept women at the college. Before his deployment to Afghanistan, he was the Director of the Service Academy Preparatory Program at VFMC. John earned a M.A. in National Security and Strategic Studies from the U. S. Naval War College, a M.A. in Communication Journalism and Public Affairs from American University in Washington, D.C. and a B.S. in Political Science from the U.S. Naval Academy. He is a doctoral student in Mass Media and Communication at Temple University. John’s personal reflections of duty throughout the world have been featured in both the Washington Post and the Philadelphia Inquirer. In 2009, John’s submission, “The Best Seven Months of Our Lives: The War in Iraq and the Battle in Hollywood” won first prize for “Top Graduate Competitive Papers” in the Pennsylvania Communication Association Writing Competition. In 2010, his “This I Believe” essay was featured on WHYY and National Public Radio. John has hosted “Life Long Learning” which can be seen on Radnor Studio 21, Radnor Township, PA. In 2011, John presented remarks, along with Mayor Michael Nutter, at the Philadelphia Day of Service and Remembrance honoring the Tenth Anniversary of 9/11. In 2012, John’s service in Liberia was featured in the Immaculata University magazine as one of his IU students was the nephew of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. John has lectured on the dynamic of effective small unit leadership at the United States Coast Guard Academy, the United States Merchant Marine Academy, St. Joseph’s University Air Force ROTC Detachment in Philadelphia, and at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.
Colonel Church is currently assigned to U.S. Marine Corps Headquarters, the Pentagon, where he leads the Civil-Military Integration Team. His personal decorations include: the Meritorious Service Medal with two Gold Stars, the Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal with two Gold Stars, the Army Commendation Medal, the Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal and the Combat Action Ribbon. As a midshipman John was a member of the U.S. Naval Academy’s nationally ranked lacrosse program. As a junior officer, he was a member of the USMC All-Marine Rugby team on four occasions. Colonel Church and his wife Mary Kay, a retired Marine major, are the proud parents of John Carl III (“JC”), Travis Joseph, Cathryn Harper and Claire Ripley (named in honor of Marine Corps legend Col. John Ripley USMC (Ret). John is the son of Colonel and Mrs. John C. Church, Sr., USMC (Retired) of Mount Clemens, Michigan.