Graduation is moving experience Print E-mail
Wednesday, 09 June 2010
By Lindsey Dunstedter
Special to GUIDON

I recently attended a basic combat training graduation at Fort Leonard Wood, and I was shocked by how humbling and emotionally charged the ceremony was. I am a twenty-something civilian with no military ties whatsoever, and I had no preconceived notions about the graduation. It was a strange experience to realize how invested I was in the graduation process. I had no Soldier on that stage, and yet I felt that each and every one of them was in some way “my Soldier.” 

These brave men and women come from all over the United States with different backgrounds and histories, and yet in this moment they are stepping forth in front of friends and family members as Soldiers in the Army. They are assuming a tremendously difficult role for themselves and for their country. After nine short weeks of rigorous training, they have learned the Army Values and teamwork, and how to push themselves both physically and mentally to accomplish goals. 

A video played in the beginning of the ceremony highlighted some of the intense training the unit completed, including marksmanship, team building exercises, and physical training. The video and the energy in the room left me speechless as the audience went into a frenzy with excited shouts and clapping. There were no slouching kids coming across that stage; the Soldiers chanted and marched with a sense of enthusiasm and pride that was contagious. 

Some recruits who enter basic training never finish, and for many recruits these past nine weeks have been the most challenging days they have ever experienced.  Yet here they are now, standing as United States Soldiers for the very first time with their unit in front of people they love who could not be any prouder. 

There was one moment during the graduation I will never forget. As one Soldier was waiting in formation to call out his name, rank and original location, a woman in front of me, who I assume is his mother, started shouting “Robbie!  Robbie, over here!” He did not break his gaze or his step, and his mother turned to the person next to her and mumbled, “Maybe he didn’t hear me.”  And it struck me — of course he heard her; everyone in the room heard her.

Maybe the old Robbie from back home would stop what he was doing immediately, but the new Robbie had a task to do, and he was going to complete that task as assigned.  Robbie was not the same kid from Alabama. Robbie is now a U.S. Soldier that understands discipline and respect, courage and sacrifice — even if it meant ignoring the calls of his mother.

Every single American citizen should, if given the chance, attend a basic training graduation. At Fort Leonard Wood, every person in every seat during a graduation is supporting the Soldiers right here at home. Even if you are not attending for one specific Soldier, it is not a stretch to realize these brave men and women are someone’s son, daughter, mother or father — and they deserve to be recognized. These brave service members answered the nation’s call in very difficult times by volunteering for one of the hardest jobs in the world. Most will be deployed and some may never come home. We owe it to them to recognize and applaud their efforts whenever possible. 

(Editor’s note: Dunstedter is an intern working in the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and pursuing a master’s degree in communication. Graduations are open to the public and the staff of the GUIDON urge everyone to attend at least one graduation during their tour at Fort Leonard Wood. For more information about graduations and graduation schedules, visit www.wood.
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 30 June 2010 )