FORT DRUM, N.Y. (June 19, 2020) -- An outpouring of support stretched for miles as Fort Drum community members celebrated Class of 2020 graduates June 18 with a commencement parade.Dozens of high school seniors and their family members drove across post in vehicles decorated with congratulatory posters, balloons and painted messages. Led by a Fort Drum police escort, the graduates stopped at booths along the way to receive special gifts and slowed down to wave back at cheering crowds.The event marked an unusual end for students who completed the academic year, not in classrooms, but in their homes, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers said that since the seniors couldn’t gather for a traditional graduation ceremony, this was a way the entire community could share their special milestone.“This means a lot, especially since everything had been slowly taken away from us during our senior year because of COVID-19,” said Ashley Badgett, a Carthage Central High School graduate. “It feels good to be recognized, and to be able to celebrate this with the rest of my classmates throughout the district.”Having to transition to home-based learning, Badgett described the school year as hectic.“I was in a technical program, so it was definitely a different challenge for me trying to get that certification online,” she said.Badgett is now looking forward to serving in the Army as a nurse, and she said that what she experienced these past few months has taught her a lot about motivation and perseverance.“There were just days when I didn’t want to show up for that Google Meet or I didn’t want to turn in that assignment, but I knew it was all going to lead to that diploma at the end of the year,” she said.Ben Creek III, a fellow Carthage Central High School graduate, said that he was grateful for being able to participate in this event to celebrate the Class of 2020. His school year started off well – playing on the Comets football team that made it to the state championships last November. A few months later, he was learning how to balance school work and extracurricular activities at home.“Now, I’ll be going to UTI (Universal Technical Institute, in Pennsylvania) to become an automotive technician,” he said.The community commencement parade was supported by members of the 10th Mountain Division Band, who performed at the staging area and along the route. The event was co-sponsored by Fort Drum Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation; AmeriCU, the USO and Fort Drum Mountain Community Homes.Megan Klosner, Fort Drum Mountain Community Homes project director, said it was an honor to be among the event sponsors to show their admiration for what these students have achieved this year.“We are incredibly proud to sponsor this special event with FMWR, and help support our graduating seniors at Fort Drum,” she said. “Now more than ever, we feel it is important to continue to find meaningful ways to stay connected to our community. Our hope is that by participating in this event, we are able to bring some joy to our residents and celebrate this significant milestone with them.”A parade photo album is available at www.flickr.com/photos/drum10thmountain/albums/72157714779768658.