By Lauren Finnegan, Joint Base Lewis-McChord Garrison Public AffairsMay 14, 2019
LAKEWOOD -- Over 200 service members, veterans and spouses received college degrees or certificates at Joint Base Lewis-McChord's 32nd annual College Graduation Ceremony May 10 at Clover Park Technical College in Lakewood.
Colonel Nicole Lucas, JBLM Garrison commander, who gave the welcoming remarks, said how honored she was to be at the event.
"This is one of the greatest events that we get to do on JBLM," Lucas said. "This is a big achievement, but it's really about what's next. You can do whatever you set your mind to and today is a perfect example of that. I really encourage you to not let anything hold you back as your move into this next chapter."
Retired Army Col. Cheryl Harris, the associate vice president for military enrollment operations at University of Maryland, University College was the keynote speaker at the event. Harris urged the graduates to continue learning even after receiving their degrees.
"Earning your degree or certificate is a personal achievement that will open doors that you've never dreamed or thought were possible," Harris said. "Today sit back, take a deep breath and relax. But only for today, because tomorrow brings new and exciting opportunities to challenge your commitment, test your will and determination. Learning never stops."
Sergeant First Class Neil Fulton, 17th Field Artillery Brigade, 1st Battalion, 94th Field Artillery Regiment, will be following Harris' advice as he plans to continue on to earn his bachelor's degree. He was awarded his associate degree at the ceremony.
"I've been working on my associate degree since I was a Private First Class 12 years ago," Fulton said. "This is only one step. Next year I hope to be in the same place getting my bachelor's."
Fulton's wife, Elizabeth, was in the audience supporting her husband's hard work. She said she was proud of him and the example he set for their children.
"With him working full time and being deployed, his achievement is amazing," Elizabeth Fulton said. "Education is always important and no matter what age you are it's going to matter. Hopefully this will inspire our children to continue no matter where they are on their journey."
Crystal Detwiler, a transition counselor at the David L. Stone Education Center at JBLM, who graduated with a Master of Education from Liberty University, said she was not only proud of her own accomplishments but those of the students she helped along the way.
"I'm the first person in my family to get a master's degree, so it's insanely exciting, Detwiler said. "And I saw some people here graduating that I helped to start their programs. It's awesome. I love to see people succeed and do better in life."