College Graduates First Student Via Skype In Afghanistan
by Kim Gebbia
LYNCHBURG, Tenn. - A mid-state soldier received his college degree while serving his country, in Motlow Community College's first digital graduation.
This month 700 students will graduate from Motlow Community College in Lynchburg. But at least one of them wasn't able to walk across the stage and accept their diploma.
38-year-old Josh Moon still managed to go through a formal ceremony. It just happened to be on a computer screen.
"It is a pleasure for me to welcome you to the 42nd commencement of Motlow State Community College. And the first Skype graduation," said the President Mary Lou Apple.
It's the first time the College has awarded a diploma to a student serving thousands of miles away in Afghanistan.
Moon's parents, three kids and teachers gathered in a small conference room on campus Wednesday to watch the ceremony on Skype.
"I knew you were more than capable of doing this and we are all proud of you," said his brother Toby, who is also in the National Guard Reserve.
It's a moment that Moon has been waiting for and working toward for 16 years.
"It's always felt like it was an impossible goal because of my background, growing up through high school I always thought I wasn't college level material that's why I went to the military right after high school," he said via Skype.
In 1996, Moon decided to be the first college graduate in his family. He enrolled in Motlow thinking it would take the usual two years. But he was deployed to Ft. Benning, to Iraq twice and then to Afghanistan. He has also had three kids and gotten married. He was holding down a day job and said that life just got in the way.
"I have wanted it so bad for so long and I'm finally here it's just that internal drive that's kept me going," said Moon.
That drive meant studying in his barracks in Afghanistan and taking final exams in a war zone just last week.
Finally, the moment arrived.
"Will you please turn to Lt. Colonel Peterson and receive your degree," said Apple, "And take your tassel and move it to the other side."
His family erupted in cheers and tears. They took pictures with his photo, draped in his honors sash.
Moon wanted to graduate on time and not wait another day, not knowing what the next day will bring.
"It's a great day, a great day and it will be a better day when he's home," said his father Clements Jack.
And Moon isn't stopping with his degree at Motlow, he plans to finish a bachelor's at MTSU and study robotics.
Right now he's working in Afghanistan with the robot units that help detect and take apart IED's.
Another soldier also graduated via Skype from Motlow Wednesday. Unfortunately he was in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan and the Internet connection wasn't quite as cooperative.