Sheri Buono, Education Services chief, greets Kristy Lee France Smith as she receives her diploma during the 26th Annual Consolidated Graduate Recognition Ceremony Oct. 26 at Howze Auditorium. Smith was the only graduate to earn a Doctorate in Nursing degree. (U.S. Army photo by Darren Cinatl, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs)
Sheri Buono, Education Services chief, greets Kristy Lee France Smith as she receives her diploma during the 26th Annual Consolidated Graduate Recognition Ceremony Oct. 26 at Howze Auditorium. Smith was the only graduate to earn a Doctorate in Nursing degree. (U.S. Army photo by Darren Cinatl, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs) (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT CAVAZOS, Texas — The adage that nothing worth having is easy to obtain is seldom more appropriate than during a commemoration of educational achievements.

Soldiers, veterans, family members and civilians from all walks of life, with degrees in various career fields, were united in the culmination of relentless dedication and effort during the 26th Annual Consolidated Graduate Recognition Ceremony Oct. 26 at Howze Auditorium.

Seventy-three graduates donned in caps and gowns, made their way down the aisle to a rousing version of “Pomp and Circumstance” delivered by the 1st Cavalry Division Band.

Bonded by a shared journey and a common goal, graduates from more than a dozen different institutions stood shoulder to shoulder to celebrate their scholarly accomplishments in front of peers, family and friends.

“It is important to recognize graduates in this way because not everyone is able to attend their school’s graduation,” explained Sheri Buono, Education Services chief. “This is a milestone in people’s lives and it’s a great opportunity to offer this event so they can celebrate their accomplishments and share this time with their families.

“These are Soldiers and family members who have faced the same challenges,” she added. “Deployments, military schedule, family life and they have made it through with success. They are best role models.”

Brig. Gen. Thomas Felty, III Armored Corps deputy commanding general-maneuver, shared the same sentiments and applauded the graduates’ tenacity as he delivered the commencement address.

Seventy-three graduates shift their tassels to signify graduating during the 26th Annual Consolidated Graduate Recognition Ceremony Oct. 26 at Howze Auditorium. (U.S. Army photo by Darren Cinatl, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs)
Seventy-three graduates shift their tassels to signify graduating during the 26th Annual Consolidated Graduate Recognition Ceremony Oct. 26 at Howze Auditorium. (U.S. Army photo by Darren Cinatl, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs) (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

“It’s always a great opportunity to get the chance to recognize all those who have gone above and beyond and put in the time to better themselves,” he said. “To all the graduates here today, congratulations on your hard work and academic achievements. While your academic journey was long and challenging, you all persevered against many odds and accomplished a major milestone.”

Whoops and hollers rang from the audience as graduates lined up to be recognized and receive their diplomas.

Kristy Lee France Smith was greeted with a barrage of cheers as she walked across the stage to receive the only doctoral degree in the graduating class.

Inspired by her daughters, she said she wanted to set an example of excellence for her children.

“I have always been a life-long learner,” she shared. “I wanted to set the bar for my children, inspire them, let them know they can achieve their dreams.”

Smith’s dream of earning a Doctorate in Nursing degree came to fruition after years of relentless study, a feat she credits the Education Center with helping her to achieve.

“When I initially enrolled in my education program, my husband was stationed in Korea. With him being away, at times, it was difficult to juggle work, kids, school and other life priorities,” she admitted. “I was grateful that my program had some flexibility, and I was able to take time off between courses to accommodate life and alleviate stress.

“The Education Center was available as a resource throughout my education endeavors,” she said. “It was nice to have the service in my corner throughout my journey.”

Buono explained that the Education Center provides a variety of services and resources to assist students in developing a realistic education goal so they can balance work and school.

She added that the support of senior leadership is also key to helping Soldiers succeed.

“As always, at times the mission comes first, and sometimes voluntary education cannot be the priority,” she explained. “However, leaders on Fort Cavazos know the importance of voluntary education and they know that when our Soldiers improve themselves both personally and professionally, that it does support the mission as a whole, that the return on investment is great.”

Buono encouraged anyone contemplating starting their educational journey to do just that.

“Just get started,” she said. “The journey starts with one class, the next class, the next class … until you realize you have accomplished your goal. Don’t wait until you think it’s the perfect time, don’t wait until you know with 100% certainty what you want to be when you grow up. There are general education classes that every program requires, so you can start classes and still have time to figure that out. Just get started.”