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Mitch Chapman, a 28-year-old wounded warrior and father of two, received his Ashford University diploma on Sunday, Oct. 13, five years to the day from his life-altering combat injury. Donning cap and gown at the University’s graduation ceremony, Chapman marched across the stage with Justice, his 3-year-old black Labrador service pup.
The flexibility and convenience of online education allowed the young veteran to pursue a bachelor’s degree in operations management and analysis, with a minor in project management. Two years into his degree, Paws & Effect, a nonprofit organization that trains service dogs for children and disabled veterans, placed him with Justice. The dog became Chapman’s daily companion, assisting him with mobility and providing a source of comfort and strength. The duo worked and studied together.
“Justice hasn’t left my side in nearly two years,” said Chapman. “He has been a major part of my college experience. I couldn’t imagine not sharing this proud moment with him. I’m thankful and honored he could be with me at graduation. We did it.”
Chapman was injured on Oct. 13, 2008 while serving as an Infantryman with the U.S. Armed Forces in Afghanistan. An explosion hit his vehicle, killing his best friend, injuring his commander, and leaving Chapman with multiple wounds, spine fractures, and hearing loss.
“Despite the tough recovery process, I was fortunate to come home, get married, find a job, and start a family,” said Chapman. “I wanted to set an example for other disabled veterans and knew that furthering my education would help progress my career.”
Chapman’s spinal injuries and full time job as a records management specialist for the federal government precluded him from a traditional university education, but the online education model was just right. In 2009, Chapman enrolled in Ashford University, an online and on-campus university offering graduate and undergraduate degree programs.
Chapman’s pregnant wife, Lindsey, and daughters, Kayla, 6, and Jillian, 3, accompanied him to the graduation ceremony in Moline, Ill. The family also had an opportunity to visit the Ashford University campus and meet some of Chapman’s fellow online classmates.
Chapman is thrilled about his accomplishments and is looking forward to a bright future. His degree put him on track for a promotion to a contract specialist.
He is thankful for the support of his family, Justice, and the University, and hopes to be an example for disabled veterans. “It’s been a challenging few years, but if I can earn a college degree while balancing a full time job and a family, so can any determined veteran.”
About Ashford University
Achievement belongs to all of us at Ashford University. By offering a traditional college campus as well as online degree programs, Ashford meets the diverse needs of individuals pursuing integrity in their
lives and in their communities. Students may earn an associates, bachelor’s, or master’s degree online, while campus students in Clinton, Iowa may earn a bachelor’s degree. Whether on campus or online, Ashford students enjoy the same supportive community. For more information, please visit ashford.edu or call Shari Winet Rodriguez, Vice President of Public Relations, at 858.513.9240 x2513.