Ceremonies go virtual in time of COVID-19
Retired Navy Commander Robert Dulin commissioned his cousin, Navy Ensign Nick Sandercott, via Zoom to begin his medical studies. Dulin spoke to Nick’s kindergarten class 18 years ago (center photo), inspiring the future doctor to join the Navy. The long distance ceremony was necessitated because of COVID-19 travel and health restrictions. (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (April 2, 2020) – The novel Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, has changed life as we know it, at least for now. Everyday tasks are being done differently and major ceremonies, like weddings or graduations, are being altered or postponed indefinitely.

But for members of the United States military, life goes on.

Robert Dulin, a retired Navy commander, is currently working as a contractor for the U.S. Army Redstone Test Center, known as RTC.

In 2002, during what seemed like a simple visit to his 6-year-old cousin Nick Sandercott’s class in Michigan, then-Lieutenant Dulin set things in motion that culminated 18 years later, in a unique commissioning ceremony held in March.

“After teaching a basic lesson in aeronautics to my young cousin Nick’s class, I presented him with the first flight helmet I was issued,” explained Dulin, “I didn't know it then but that moment set Nick down a path of greatness leading to this commissioning ceremony.”

Dulin had planned a trip to Michigan to commission Sandercott as a new Navy ensign in person. However, travel restrictions and social distancing due to COVID-19 forced the ceremony to be held via the Zoom video conferencing application instead. Despite the last-minute change, the ceremony marked the continuation of a family tradition of military service.

“My family has a long and proud tradition of service to this nation. Most of that service has been with the Navy. My father was a retired Naval commander who served 30 years, I am a retired Naval commander with nearly 30 years, and my brother and his son both served in the Navy. My father and I were both prior enlisted before crossing over to commissioned service,” explained Dulin.

Physicians in the Navy are commissioned and then complete medical school. Ensign Sandercott will begin his studies at Michigan State University School of Osteopathic Medicine this summer.

"Obviously I have some big shoes to fill. This is something that I have wanted to do since I was young,” said Sandercott after his ceremony, “I know that I will be getting the best training, and that I am one step closer to obtaining my goal of becoming a doctor. I cannot think of a better organization to do it through."