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U.S. Army Ranger Chosen to Give Ashford University's Commencement Address
Sgt. Keni Thomas was involved in the 1993 "Black Hawk Down" incident in Somalia

Sgt. Keni Thomas, one of the U.S. Army Rangers involved in the battle that would later be recounted in the book and movie Black Hawk Down, will present the keynote address during Ashford University’s two commencement ceremonies on Sunday, May 4.

In the summer of 1993, Thomas was deployed to Mogadishu, Somalia with Bravo Company of the 3rd Ranger Battalion as part of a special operations package called Task Force Ranger. The group’s mission was to find and capture warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid. On October 3, during an 18-hour firefight, 19 Americans died and 78 were wounded in the worst urban combat seen by American troops since World War II.

Thomas stayed in the Army for three more years as a team leader of a ranger reconnaissance team. He earned his master parachutist rating with more than 400 military free fall jumps, completed the Special Forces Combat Diver course, became an advanced EMT, and was one of 10 Americans to complete the Belgium Commando Course. He left the Army to pursue his music career and now works fulltime as a Nashville recording artist. His band, Cornbread, was featured in the movie Sweet Home Alabama and regularly tours with the USO. As an entertainer, he has been recognized by Congress and the White House, and was inducted into the VFW Hall of Fame for his work on behalf of American veterans and military families.

His book Get it On! tells how lessons learned under fire can inspire people on a day-to-day basis. Thomas is also a national spokesperson for the Hero Fund and the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which provides college educations to the children of special operations personnel killed in combat or training.

Thomas is a graduate of the University of Florida and a recipient of the Bronze Star for Valor.

Ashford University’s commencement ceremonies will be held at the iWireless Center in Moline, Ill. at 8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Both ceremonies are open to the public.


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 or call Shari Winet, Vice President of Public Relations, at 858.513.9240 x2513.