FORT SILL, Okla., Oct. 15, 2020 -- B Battery, 1st Battalion, 40th Field Artillery’s basic combat training graduation Oct. 2 had all the trappings of ceremony as 229 new Soldiers began their careers of service to their country.A small ensemble of the 77th Army Band played ceremonial music, officers and noncommissioned officers led Soldiers onto Destroyer Park, and awards to the top graduates and drill sergeant of the cycle were presented.The only part missing were families as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to restrict the inclusion of jubilant families celebrating their new Soldiers.Instead, a lone father witnessed the graduation even as he contributed to the ceremony’s dignity and respect.Like many parents who attend military graduations, retired Staff Sgt. Heath Calhoun also stood where his son, Pfc. Mason Calhoun, was in formation. But for the elder Calhoun, that was 21 years ago.Then, during a deployment to Iraq in 2003, Heath became a squad leader for then 1st Lt. Marcus Franzen, when a rocket-propelled grenade exploded under the Humvee that Heath was riding in. Those wounds altered his life as his legs were shredded and led to amputations above the knee.But Heath’s service to his country didn’t end there. He went on to serve as a spokesman for the Wounded Warrior Project and helped get the Wounded Warrior bill passed through Congress in 2005.Also, during his recovery and rehabilitation, Health joined a group of wounded service members for an adaptive ski trip to Colorado and soon became fascinated with mono-skiing. This led to competitions and medals in the Paralympic Winter Games.Retired yet again from competitive skiing, Heath devotes his time to his children. He also mentors others learning to live on prosthetics and helps with the development of more efficient and functional prosthetic technology.Heath opened his remarks by telling the Soldiers of the powerful statement they said in unison: “I am an American Soldier.” He reminded the graduates they are now on the career path of military service, something that only 1 percent of the U.S. population enters into.“I think that’s commendable; I have a lot of gratitude for that and a lot of respect for you all,” he said.Heath then shared his story of how he lost his legs Nov. 7, 2003, and of the battle-buddies who saved his life that day.“It doesn’t matter for what reason you are here. Train hard, work hard, build off the momentum of the last eight weeks. Train to be the best Soldier that you can be,” he said.He said military life is the same whether the new Soldiers are four-year enlistees or headed to a 20-year career.“You’re a Soldier, one of America’s war fighters. Take that never-quit attitude with you and use it in your Army career, or once you’ve retired or moved on into the civilian sector,” he said.He added some of his best memories occurred during his own passage through basic training.“At some point you’ll look back with pride and recall the friendships, the brotherhood and sisterhood you found here, and realize this was a place unlike any other you will become part of,” he said.He concluded his remarks congratulating the Soldiers on their achievement and told them America is proud of them.Four Soldiers then marched to the front of the formation to receive individual awards. Pfc. Joshua Hansen was named the Distinguished Honor Graduate. Pvt. Ashton Antil earned the Rifle Marksmanship award as he dispensed with 38 of the 40 targets he faced. Pvt. Jordan Foster King’s 577 points garnered him the High Physical Training award, and Pfc. Dylan Allen received the Pvt. George Watson award for best display of selfless service.The final award went to Staff Sgt. Meghann Wassman who was named Drill Sergeant of the Cycle.After the ceremony, Heath had a brief time to meet with his son who finished in the top 10 percent of his graduating class.“It’s certainly rough times we are going through with COVID, but getting the opportunity to see my son graduate is an incredibly proud moment for me,” said Heath.Mason is the latest in a family who served, as his grandfather and great grandfather also raised their right hands to defend their country.Like his goal-oriented dad, Mason has a few ahead of him, though he’s focused on his next step of service. He’s now headed to Joint Base San Antonio for advanced individual training to learn his specialty as a 68W Combat Medic. He added that his father’s story and example motivated him to select the medic military occupational specialty.“Medics were the people who were able to bring him home, and I would appreciate the opportunity to help bring someone else’s family member home,” he said.Regardless of what obstacles life sends his way, Heath has a principle that has seen him through.“I’ve tried to live the never-quit philosophy for a long time,” he said. “A lot of bad stuff happens in the world, but never quit can get you out to the other side and keep you moving.”