By Danielle DeSimone

As a military brat, you expect to miss out on a lot of things. You know that you’ll lose friends and have to make new ones each time you move every few years. You assume you’ll spend most of your life away from your extended family and away from whatever place you call home. You know that you might have to live in other states and other countries, and that adjusting to a new culture and way of life will be difficult.

What you don’t expect is for your high school graduation to be canceled because of a global pandemic.

All around the world, graduating high school seniors are faced with the frustrating reality of milestone events like prom, sporting events and graduation being canceled. For military children far from friends and extended family, this can be even more challenging.

That’s why USO centers around the world are trying to ease the sting of these losses by providing military high school seniors with graduation celebrations they’ll never forget.

Military High School Seniors Celebrate with the USO From Six Feet Apart

Photo credit USO Honolulu

A graduating military high school senior poses with his family during a USO drive-thru graduation event.

On the island of Oahu in Hawaii, military high school graduates celebrated their achievement with drive-thru and socially distanced graduation events.

USO Honolulu invited military children of local active duty military, Reserve, and National Guard, as well as their loved ones, to a parking lot on Fort Shafter for a socially distanced celebration. Many families decorated their cars with streamers and posters to get into the celebratory spirit as they drove through the makeshift graduation event, followed by the cars of supportive friends who were there to cheer on the graduates.

As they drove through, USO Honolulu volunteers safely handed out leis, cupcakes and graduation certificates, and took pictures for the graduates.

The families and loved ones decorated their cars for the USO’s drive-thru graduation event as a way of celebrating their graduating high school senior. | Photo credit USO Honolulu

The USO teams on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and Schofield Barracks also provided graduating military children with similar events and created an elaborate photobooth for seniors to take pictures in front of in their caps and gowns.

These gestures, although not the same as a full graduation ceremony, serve as an acknowledgment of the resiliency of our nation’s military children, even during this challenging time.

“Thank you so much,” Jenny Riley-Doyle commented on USO Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam’s Facebook post of photos from the graduation event. “That was a very nice event to uplift the spirits of our seniors during the pandemic. We appreciate your efforts tremendously.”

Graduate Together with the USO

Additionally, this past Armed Forces Day, May 16, the USO also celebrated graduating military children around the world by partnering with The Entertainment Industry Foundation, The LeBron James Family Foundation and XQ Institute to provide the livestream of “Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020.”

The livestream, which was broadcasted from the USO’s YouTube channel, featured a star-studded cast, including notable figures such as former President Barack Obama, activist Malala Yousafzai, singer Alicia Keys and professional basketball player LeBron James, among others.

Former General George W. Casey, Jr. provided graduating high school military children with words of encouragement during a livestream of “Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020.” | Photo credit USO Photo

Notably, retired General George Casey, USO Chairman and 36th Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, broadcasted words of encouragement to the nearly 50,000 American students studying overseas at more than 100 schools operated by the Department of Defense (DoD). These words were especially poignant coming from General Casey; before he was the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, he grew up as an Army brat in a military family.

“I believe all that moving around and adjusting made me more resilient, and made me stronger,” General Casey said, recalling his military childhood before sharing words of advice for the class of 2020.

“After all you’ve been through, I really believe you’re well-prepared to lead us into the second decades into the 21st century and make a difference in our world.”

In the middle of a global pandemic, many things can feel uncertain, but it is comforting to know that our military children – even in these unprecedented times – are always resilient and ready to adjust to the next challenge.