By Mr. Stephen Baack (IMCOM)November 17, 2016
ANSBACH, Germany (Nov. 18, 2016) -- The U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach Education Center honored 35 college graduates from among 18 institutions of higher learning during a ceremony Wednesday at the Von Steuben Community Center here.
Because service members, family members, veterans and retirees have such diverse schedules and attend different schools, this ceremony fulfilled an opportunity that many attending the event might not have otherwise experienced: stepping front and center before family, peers and classmates and being presented one's degree certificate while in full academic regalia. Many of those recognized had already been conferred their degrees and officially graduated, but had not been honored for their academic achievement.
Some students opted for other choices of dress, but shades of black, blue and gray graduation caps and gowns -- representing a diverse collection of colleges and universities -- filled the front rows.
Presenting the degrees and certificates were Col. Benjamin C. Jones, USAG Ansbach commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Derek R. Cuvellier, USAG Ansbach command sergeant major. Not all 35 honorees were able to attend the event, but Jones, Cuvellier and various academic representatives had the chance to present certificates to 24 graduates during the ceremony.
Jones also served as the guest speaker.
"It's wonderful that we have the opportunity to take college courses and participate in programs despite the geographical separation from the brick-and-mortar schools," said Jones. "Technology has definitely transformed our methods of education."
Jones added that the act of working toward a degree while serving in uniform, working in the public sector, volunteering, or attending to one's family is no small achievement.
"But with unrelenting determination," Jones said, "you made it. I had the opportunity to attend both undergraduate and graduate programs as a full-time student, which can be challenging enough -- as it was for me even when it was my sole responsibility. But to do so while also performing a job, taking care of a family or volunteering in your community takes much more dedication and sacrifice. You all have my utmost respect for your achievements."
Serving as the student speaker was Jodee Watters, who was honored during the ceremony for earning a master's degree in human relations and a master's in international relations from the University of Oklahoma. Watters serves as a victim advocate for the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade and is a former military police Soldier. She is also the first in her family to both attend and graduate from college.
Watters said the group of graduates represent "the epitome of diversity." The group, she said, includes majors such as business, psychology, human resources, criminal justice and homeland security, and graduates who represent active-duty military, federal employees, family members, retirees and veterans.
"Diversity drives who we are and where we go," said Watters. "Our nation is founded on the core of diversity."
Watters used the opportunity to share the story of her own educational journey, which included earning her associate's degree while serving on active duty in South Korea: "Once I got my first degree, the thirst for more kept me reaching higher and higher," she said.
Watters praised her fellow graduates on, first, the decision to step foot into the classroom amid the many other responsibilities that are naturally part of military life.
"We all have barriers that keep us from taking those first steps," she said. "We have many reasons why it would be easier to not step into our first college classroom. Yet, each of us has moved past those barriers."
Watters also praised her fellow graduates in working toward and completing their academic goals, even if the process was time-consuming.
"I am sure many of you have stayed up countless hours trying to finish assignments, all while managing the many life responsibilities you have to carry on your shoulders," she said.
"Today, you are able to say, 'I am a college graduate,'" said added. "Your graduation is worth celebrating."