FORT HOOD, Texas - Sixty-seven Soldiers, family members and veterans celebrated the culmination of all their hard work during the 2021-2022 Fort Hood graduation ceremony at Howze Auditorium here, Nov. 17.
Graduates, donned in caps and gowns from 17 different colleges and universities, filed into the auditorium with pomp and circumstance as the 1st Cavalry Division Band played the graduation march of the same name.
The class was as diverse as the colleges and universities they attended. Students from all over the world participated in this year’s ceremony.
Sgt. Isaac Sam, 418th Transportation Company, 61st Quartermaster Battalion, 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, graduated with a Master of Science in Public Administration from Regent University. He has been in the Army for seven and a half years but is new to Fort Hood.
Born and raised in Ghana, Sam was selected to address the audience on behalf of his class. He expressed that reaching this milestone took balance and perseverance.
“At first, I didn’t think I would be able to complete it,” Sam said. “Putting in place my deployment, work schedules and stuff, it was hard, but eventually, with the dedication that I had, I was able to do it and it feels really amazing.”
Some graduates credited various principles, morals and ethics for helping them reach this point in their lives, while others relied on sheer determination.
Dr. Yvette Diaz Stewart, a counselor at the Education Center, asserted that her approach to pursuing her Doctor of Business Administration from Trident University International is like her approach in life.
“I quit twice, and I didn’t think I was going to finish,” she admitted. “But it was something that I needed to do because it was something that I started, so I needed to finish.”
A few graduates challenged themselves even further by completing dual degrees.
Staff Sgt. Jose Valentin, 2nd Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, recalled a conversation with his daughter and reflected on how it felt to earn both a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology and a Master of Arts in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix.
“It’s emotional because it’s a huge milestone that I never thought I was going to accomplish ever in my life,” he expressed. “It feels great to have taken the time to have the right motivation, have the right support and have the right mentality to accomplish something this big.”
Valentin and other graduates expressed their gratitude to the Education Center for supporting them throughout their journeys.
Education Services Specialist Frances Judkins conveyed the significance of celebrating students’ achievements.
“It is very important because they are our future; their excitement about what they have accomplished, we want to share that with the world,” Judkins explained. “Each class, I feel great to be a part of it because every Soldier, every family member deserves this opportunity to see that their hard work will pay off and we can be one of those activities that help them to share their joy.”
Maj. Gen. Christopher G. Beck, deputy commanding general of maneuver for the III Armored Corps, delivered a commencement address that praised the graduates for their accomplishments and recognized their family and friends for supporting them on their journey.
“You certainly didn’t do this alone, whether it was your classmates, whether it was the faculty, your family certainly as we already pointed out, your chain of command in many cases and family,” Beck began. “And as we’ve said, sometimes it’s an encouraging word, sometimes it’s a pat on the back, shoulder to cry on, or sometimes it’s probably a swift kick in the backside. All of those had to happen all at the right time. Because what you did is extremely challenging, but now you get to reap the rewards and benefits of those.”
Graduates’ names, colleges and degrees were announced as they marched across the stage, received their diplomas and posed for photos.
As graduates conferred their degrees and shifted their tassels from right to left, they were greeted with thunderous applause and accolades from the audience.
“You guys took the opportunity and that challenge that goes to doing that, while you maintained a career and family and balanced all those,” Beck asserted. “You took the opportunity that the Army gave, you took the opportunity that this community gave, you took the opportunity that all these schools represented here today gave you, and you seized upon that. Because you wanted to develop yourself, you wanted to improve yourself, and my hat is off to you for that.”