A photo of a man saluting in front of six flags.
Navy veteran Jimmy Webber is graduating with an interdisciplinary studies degree from VCU and with the military having remained a key part of his collegiate experience. (Kevin Morley, Enterprise Marketing and Communications)

Class of 2023: Navy veteran Jimmy Webber, a former casket bearer, continued to build his leadership skills at VCU

Former ceremonial guard member found – and shared – support through Military Student Services.

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In August 2011, Jimmy Webber carried out his solemn duty on a tragic scale: He was at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington when the caskets of 17 U.S. Navy Seals were being transferred to Arlington National Cemetery. Their helicopter had been shot down in the largest single-incident loss of American lives in Operation Enduring Freedom – Afghanistan.

“I folded flags and carried those guys to honor,” said Webber, who served in the ceremonial guard command for the first two years of his four-year Navy service. “It made me feel honored and privileged.”

His primary duty was serving as a casket bearer at Arlington – “an honorable job,” he said, that his 6-foot-2 frame allowed him to perform – though he also marched in numerous events, including President Barack Obama’s 2012 inauguration. Now a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University, Webber is graduating this month with an interdisciplinary studies degree from University College – and with the military having remained a key part of his collegiate experience.

After his discharge, the Shelby, North Carolina, native worked in the banking industry before attending Duquesne University in Pittsburgh in 2021 to study sports media. Webber transferred to VCU in 2022 when his then-fiancée and now wife Karlee McBride Webber became an assistant coach for the women’s basketball team.

“I could have gone to other schools, but the fact that VCU had a great veterans service organization as well as Military Student Services made the decision easy,” he said. 

Part of VCU’s Strategic Enrollment Management and Student Success unit, Military Student Services supported his application for a scholarship and outlined services he was entitled to as a veteran.

“They pushed me in a position that would help me grow,” said Webber, who is now president of the Student Veterans Association. “This has allowed me to get in touch with other veterans and grow my leadership and communication skills.”

He offered special praise to mentors Stephen Ross and William “Tres” Morley, the director and assistant director, respectively, of Military Student Services, for helping him get involved on campus. “Without them, my journey would be a different experience,” he said.

With graduation at hand, Webber is grateful for the support he has received from Military Student Services and the fellow veterans he has met at VCU.

“We have a bond and an understanding of each other,” he said. “Most people don’t realize it, but because we are going through these different changes and dealing with the situations we have dealt with, we can relate to one another. Having folks around who understand me has helped me understand others better.”