Heartland Purple Heart recipient earns college degree at Southeast

SEMO veteran completes degree

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - A Heartland veteran and Purple Heart recipient completed his degree at Southeast Missouri State University and will walk across the stage on Saturday May 11. It’s something he says he never thought was possible.

“It’s really hard to believe. I know I’m 56 but I am so glad that I made this decision it’s been one of the smartest decisions that I made,” said Robert Wake, a spring 2019 graduate of Southeast.

On Saturday he will accept his bachelor’s degree in mass communications.

“I’ve been involved in public service for years and mass comm is a huge part of public service, and I wanted to be able to educate myself that much further and be very efficient with what I do,” said Wake.

Wake is the co-founder of the wake foundation a non-profit that helps veterans.

“I never really thought that i would have this opportunity because when I was younger we didn’t have the money to go to college,” said Wake.

He’s able to afford college because of his service with the Army in support of operation Iraqi Freedom during which he received a Purple Heart after being injured in combat.

“A mortar came in once they pinpointed where we were at and it landed right between me and a medic and really cause quite a bit of damage,” said Wake.

Wake was injured in 2004 and spent 13 months recovering in a hospital.

“I don’t remember a lot about that night but I went through 13 months of different things from my teeth to my nose to my ears and it damaged my left knee and right ankle,” said Wake.

The biggest battle he had to overcome was on the inside.

“It had torn my frontal lobe and affected my memory so it took a lot of courage to see that I would be able to make it through my college career,” said Wake.

But he said that he learned the importance of education while in Iraq.

“One thing I learned from Saddam Hussein is if you keep people uneducated you can control themm and so I believe education is a very important piece of people’s lives,” said Wake.

Wake said he imagines walking across the stage will be an incredible feeling.

“There’s a lot of people, family who’s no longer alive that i wish could see that moment but just amazing.

It’s hard to believe that it’s happening but I’m honored and privileged to be able to reach this point in my life,” said Wake.

Southesast commencement ceremonies are at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday May 11 at the Show Me Center.

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