Posted by Paul Baker on May 5, 2017
AURORA, Ill. — Joy Stickley’s proudest day will arrive May 7 when she walks across the stage at Aurora University to collect a diploma. But it won’t be hers.
Stickley, a Shorewood native, will be crossing that stage to receive a diploma on behalf of her daughter, Kimberly, who graduated in December with a degree in computer science and who almost immediately thereafter deployed to the Middle East with the Illinois Air National Guard (IANG).
“She wouldn’t be able to walk with her class, so we thought it would be a wonderful gesture and a way to acknowledge her service to the country,” the elder Stickley explained. “By volunteering to serve, she has helped ensure that everyone attending the graduation ceremony can enjoy that freedom. We thought that she shouldn’t have to miss out.”
Kimberly, 23, comes from a military family. Both her mother and her father, Edward, who died last year, served in the Air Force, and her grandfathers served in the Army and Navy.
Kimberly was a member of the IANG during all four of her years at AU, even taking a year off from her university studies to train in cyber systems operations. Now, as a staff sergeant/server administrator in the Combat Communications Squadron, she and her team work to keep U.S. forces in the Middle East talking to each other 24/7.
“We make sure that they have computers, email, whatever they need to communicate to one another whether they’re in the air or on the ground,” she said.
“I didn’t want to be left out of something that I worked so hard to achieve,” Kimberly said, referring to her graduation. “Having my mom walk for me means more than anything you can imagine because I know how proud both of my parents would be.”
When she’s off duty, Kimberly is continuing her studies, working online toward a master’s degree in cyber security management and policy from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Her father, an alumnus of Embry-Riddle, was also working on his master’s degree at Embry-Riddle before his death.
Kimberly is looking forward to relaxing a bit when she returns to the United States after her tour is up later this summer.
“I’ve already bought tickets for the Florida Georgia Line concert at Wrigley Field, and I want to go to Las Vegas for Labor Day since I’ve never been,” she said.