Ball State cadet graduating, continuing family’s legacy of service

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MUNCIE, Ind. - The amount of studying and work that comes with being a college student can keep the best and brightest constantly busy.

Throw in a commitment to the Army and the work could be overbearing. One cadet, and soon-to-be college graduate, overcame the challenges and made a memorable impact on the leaders with the school's ROTC.

Liam Shelton is one of 24 cadets who take part in Saturday's commencement ceremony at Ball State University.

During the ceremony, the two dozen students will walk on-stage and take their oath of office, led by Col. Kelly Rosenberger, and take their first official salute. School officials said the moment is usually one of the highlights of the commencement ceremony and is followed by a loud applause from the thousands of people in the crowd.

Besides earning their academic degrees, the cadets will also be commissioned as Second Lieutenants.

Shelton, who attended a junior ROTC Naval academy in Florida prior to enrolling at Ball State, almost immediately caught the eye of his ROTC instructors in Muncie.

"The professor of Military Sciences and I, right at the moment we saw him, said right away this is the kind of kid who is going to step right and lead," said retired Master Sgt. Michael Black, who was an instructor of Shelton's his freshman year. "We went to the person who runs our administration portion, our NES-1 and we said this guy is going to be your assistant directly. To take a freshman and put him in that role and that responsibility was huge.”

Black said Shelton excelled in the role from day one and other instructors agreed.

“It’s really a trend and behavior," said Rosenberger, who has been Shelton's instructor the last three years. "He has more heart than any cadet in the program. He’s a hard worker.”

Shelton's dedication to military service can be traced back through his family tree. His father served in the Navy during the Vietnam War, his grandfather was in the armored division during World War II and his step-grandfather fought behind enemy lines in France one day before D-Day as a glider pilot.

Shelton knew years before enrolling in college that he wanted to go to Ball State. "I remember the grass and how it was softer than the grass in Florida," he said. It was the late part of summer in 2007 when he and his family visited the Muncie campus. The family was invited to the unveiling of the David Letterman Communications and Media Building, and Shelton was there supporting Letterman, who is Shelton's uncle.

Leaders with the ROTC said Shelton tried to hide who he was related to and never used the talk show host's success to help create his own.

“He tried his best to keep his famous uncle out of his history," said Black. “He wanted to be the giant that everyone else stood on, instead of standing on other people’s shoulders.”

Instead, he's following in the footsteps of his relatives who served the country before him.

“I wanted to give back to the country that has given me the opportunity to do and be who I am and it really comes down to I want to really protect my friends and family," said Shelton.

After graduation, Shelton will get a short break before heading to Fort Benning in Georgia where he will spend four months training in the armory branch of the Army. He said his dream job would be to work in foreign affairs for the Army in China.

Shelton will graduate from Ball State with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications and a minor in Chinese.

Anyone interested in enrolling in the ROTC program through Ball State can click here or call 765-285-8341.