Friends and family celebrated the collegiate accomplishments of 91 graduates at III Corp and Fort Hood’s 22nd graduation ceremony Nov. 15. The two-hour ceremony started at 1 p.m. and was held at Howze Theater.

The Education Services Division puts on the annual ceremony for eligible active duty soldiers, retirees, immediate families of active duty soldiers/retirees and civilian employees that work on Fort Hood.

“During this past year, more than 6,000 Fort Hood soldiers took college classes. (A total of) 421 soldiers have completed a college degree. Joining us today are 91 scholars who have reached an important milestone in their academic journey and are receiving recognition from 30 colleges and universities,” said Michael D. Engen.

Thursday afternoon, attendees enjoyed musical selections from the First Cavalry Division band. Hood Mobilization Brigade’s chaplain, Maj. Marky Lacey, gave the invocation and the benediction.

Retired Gen. Benjamin S. Griffin addressed the graduate class of 2018.

“I do commend you for showing up today and walking across the stage, because you represent all those other graduates that couldn’t be here today … At the end of the day, you earned your degree. You worked toward it and you are to be congratulated,” said Griffin.

The speaker understood the challenges graduates overcame to receive their diplomas. Like many service members, his personal academic accomplishments coincided with his military education. Griffin graduated Infantry Officer Candidate School, Infantry Officer Advanced Course, Command and General Staff College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

Griffin came into the Army with a bachelor of science degree from Old Dominion University. After 38 years of service, he left with a Master of Business Administration from Mercer University and an honorary doctorate degree from Old Dominion University. His service to his country did not delay his academic achievements. The student speaker understood the balancing act nontraditional students take as well.

Griffin’s address was followed by Stephanie Hodnett-Barronette’s student address. She spent the last decade advocating for college readiness and workforce development. St. Mary’s University sent her to Fort Hood Soldier Development Center in 2008, where she helped others achieve their academic goals.

As a nontraditional student, she simultaneously supported others career development and her own academic goals, which made her empathize with students. She understood that students embark on this journey for different reasons. Hodnett-Barronette’s children motivated her to set a standard for them.

“Stephanie’s academic journey is similar to many of yours. The key to her success was that she maintained a high level of motivation and dedication, as well as, encouragement from her family and friends … I assure that Stephanie’s academic path was full of challenges. Challenges that we can all relate to,” Engen said.

Both speakers understood the personal sacrifices adult learners make to obtain their degrees and shared their admiration for each student’s journey.

“It’s been an interesting road and it is not by chance we are here today. Nov. 15 marks an important date in history for all of us — in which we accomplished what seemed impossible at the time,” said Stephanie Hodnett-Barronette.

After the speeches, Chastise Hale called each graduate to the stage. Representatives from American Military University, Ashford University, Central Texas College, Excelsior College, Columbia Southern University, Grand Canyon University, Post University Global, Trident University International, Troy University and University Maryland University College presented degrees to the graduates. Afterward, Hale presented the graduates of 2018.

The celebration continued at the Soldier Development Center. Central Texas College’s Culinary Arts department and American Military University supported the reception and graduation.

Students graduating in the 2018-2019 school year can apply for next year’s ceremony, which will be held Nov. 14, 2019, at www.hood.army.mil/esd. For more information on the application process and graduation rehearsal, contact Wade Utley at 254-285-5551 or wade.j.utley.civ@mil.com.

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