FORT KNOX, Ky. — Fort Knox celebrated the Fort Knox Middle High School Class of 2020 during a senior baccalaureate in front of Cavalry Chapel May 14 as parents and students sat in their cars facing an improvised stage.Guest speakers congratulated the soon-to-be graduates on their accomplishments and encouraged them to forge ahead into their futures.“My message to you this evening is simple: I and every other [member] of this installation and throughout our neighboring communities are immensely proud of you —” said Col. CJ King, commander of Fort Knox Garrison; “not only what you’ve accomplished, but the grace and dignity you displayed in accomplishing it.”King said the graduates’ accomplishments mean even more in light of the obstacles they had to surmount to achieve them.“Many of you have relocated multiple times, in some cases as many as 10 separate moves and school changes over the course of your lives,” said King. “With those moves, you’ve come into constantly changing environments at home and school, … [and] constant efforts to integrate into new peer groups, new sports teams or extracurricular activity groups, and churches.“You did it, you largely did it without complaint, and you did it as a matter of routine because that’s what military families do.”He said their final mile, having to learn in isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, has proven to be an historic milestone.“The last three months have been challenging, and certainly not optimal,” said King. “You were robbed of experiences with friends, of spring sports seasons, of prom; but you persevered, you pushed through, and you’ve helped shape history.“Congratulations on an extraordinary accomplishment by any measure, but particularly this one under extraordinary circumstances.”He told the students their experiences have prepared them to take their place in society.“If you don’t already know this, you’ll discover it very soon — you are so much better prepared, so much more experienced, so much more resilient, and so much more aware than 99% of your non-military peer group across the nation,” King said.Lonnie Gilmore, principal of the school, said despite the lost face-to-face time, the class distinguished itself.“[Graduates] often look back at all the things they were able to do their senior year, and this class definitely has endeavors it can be proud of,” said Gilmore. “There are seniors here who are the first to graduate our Junior Fire Academy, and they have the training to go to any fire department in the state of Kentucky straight out of high school. And after 17 years, this class has brought the Army Bowl trophy back to Fort Knox Middle High School. I couldn’t be prouder.“What I’m proudest of, though, is the optimism [with which] you’ve taken all this in stride and kept your eyes on the prize.”Chaplain (Col.) James Boulware said maintaining focus on the prize is what will keep the graduates on point for years to come.“You’re being passed a paint brush, and in front of you is the easel that is called your life,” said Boulware. “With every decision you make, you make a stroke on your canvas. One day, you’ll look back at that portrait.Boulware encouraged the graduates to seek God now.“It’s a powerful thing when you let God direct your strokes,” said Boulware. “Not only will you look back to see the things you’ve accomplished, you won’t regret those things you didn’t paint.”Lori Rozhon, mother of graduating senior Shelby Rozhon, said the current circumstances because of COVID-19 will provide valuable lessons for Shelby and the other graduates’ futures for years to come. “I really think the students had the opportunity to learn perseverance from this. They’ve learned to overcome difficulties and to move forward,” Rozhon said.Rozhon praised the command and school officials for helping the students get through the difficulties, including providing the baccalaureate.“They have really tried to compensate for all those things that the [students] didn’t get to have happen for them — like their prom and graduation ceremony, and parents getting to return from deployments, or having extended family coming to see them,” Rozhon said. “This was something extra special for them.”