Fort Benning holds combined college graduation after a year delay

Military

FORT BENNING, Ga. (WRBL) – After a year of waiting, Fort Benning college students were able to walk across the stage and accept their diplomas.

Fort Benning college students were scheduled to graduate last year, but their graduation was put on hold due to COVID-19. A year later those same students were finally able to have somewhat of a traditional college graduation.

Those in attendance had to follow traditional COVID-19 guidelines such as social distancing, wearing masks and guests were provided with an electronic graduation program. Graduates were also limited to how many guests they were allowed to invite to the ceremony.

During the ceremony, retired Army Sergeant Josh Wetzel presented graduates with a commencement speech, he told graduates they should be extremely proud.

“Let me just tell you, as a father with two kids it’s amazing to go back to school and finish something that you started,” Wetzel said.

Retired E-5 Navy graduate Kevin Cobb, who received his Master’s degree in Bachelors of Science, told News 3 this was a joyous moment.

“It’s actually an awesome thing to be able to come and physically walk across the stage. That’s the traditional thing, you know everybody wants to reach that milestone in life crossing the stage. I was privileged to be able to do that now, with the pandemic going on and everything. We have protocols and stuff in place now were able to do it in front of our family members and friends, so I’m glad my wife was able to be here, my mom and dad and my sister,” Cobb said.

Graduate Staff Sergeant Crystal Hayes said she was devastated when she found out she couldn’t graduate last year.

“I was disappointed but I knew that I accomplished it and I was like one day I will be able to walk that stage,” Hayes said.

That one day is September 24, 2021, Hayes said she’s ecstatic.

“I’m excited, I accomplished this. I thought that it wouldn’t be fast enough but it honestly feels good, it feels really good,” Hayes said.

Hayes received a Bachelor’s degree in Human Resources. After her 10 years in the Army are over she plans on starting a career in her field. Hayes wants other college and high school students to keep their heads up while they’re still in school during the pandemic.

“You can and you will, anything you put your mind to you will accomplish,” Hayes said.

Cobb had a similar message as well.

“I want to first let them know like hey, you can definitely accomplish anything you want to do and put your mind to, whether you’re physically doing graduation or you receive your degree in the mail. Either way, it goes guess what, you did it and you achieved it and that’s the biggest thing to take away is that you accomplished something,” Cobb said.

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