CAMP MIKE SPANN, Afghanistan - Graduation can be a time of both sadness and happiness for a parent. Sad that their child is moving on to another chapter and happy that they have completed a major milestone in their life.
Not all parents in the military get a chance to see their child graduate. Deployments, schools and training events can all get in the way of witnessing this accomplishment. For some soldiers, they do not let those types of events prevent them from seeing their child graduate. Staff Sgt. Vincent Benton, supply sergeant assigned to Charlie Company, 237th Brigade Support Battalion, 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, is one of those soldiers.
Knowing he wasn’t going to be able to be present to watch his daughter, Fallon, participate in her senior year activities or to graduate from Northwestern Senior High School in Albion, Pa., he began finding other ways to be a part of her final year of high school.
For Fallon’s senior night during basketball season, the two tried using Skype so Benton could watch the game and talk to her. Due to technical difficulties, Benton was able to see her through her phone Skype, but she could not see him. They ended up using instant messaging to converse during the game. While this was a solution for this event, it was not going to work for graduation.
Benton contacted the school principal, Dan Shreve, to develop a plan that would enable him to watch, and possibly talk to, his daughter during graduation. The school’s technical support adviser, John Davis, was brought into the plan. A teleconference was brought up as a possible solution, but during test runs proved unsuccessful.
Technology was not being kind to the Bentons.
The video conferencing equipment that the brigade headquarters uses was not a feasible option due to Internet protocol conflicts with the devices. Skype was placed back as the most feasible option. The only question was where Staff Sgt. Benton would be able to use it and have a reliable connection.
The Morale, Welfare and Recreation Internet cafe was finally decided upon as the best solution for this endeavor. Although the cafe has 20 computers, not all are equipped with webcams. Coordination had to be made with the MWR staff to ensure Benton would be able to use one of the available webcam computers for the graduation. There is also a time limit 30 minutes to ensure others are able to contact their families as well. Since the entire graduation ceremony was scheduled to last approximately two hours, special permission was granted for Benton to go over the allotted 30 minute limit. Since the time difference would put him on the computer at 4 a.m. (8 p.m. EDT), this did not cause any issues.
With the Skype set-up on the MWR and the school computers ready to go, Benton was able to see his daughter before the ceremony began and have a short pep talk with her. He apologized for not being able to be there in person, but let her know that his heart was with her.
“Today, you are my hero,” he said, “my inspiration, the apple of my eye, and the beat in my heart.”
Benton was able to watch as his daughter walked into the high school gymnasium and onto the stage just as the rest of the families were able to do with their graduates. After the school superintendent, principal and valedictorian gave their speeches, it was time for the students to receive their diplomas.
Each student marched across the stage and was handed their diploma and received handshakes for their endeavors. Benton was able to witness all of this. He was also given an additional opportunity that most parents don’t get during a graduation; he was able to tell his daughter how proud he was of her. After Fallon received her diploma, she was directed to the podium where she had a better view of the screen and listened as her father spoke from more than 6,000 miles away. He had nothing but praise for his daughter. “You faced adversity, you persevered, and you accomplished the goal of graduate,” he said.
With tears in his eyes, he thanked everyone that made it possible for him to witness his daughter’s graduation.
Date Posted:06.20.2012 02:16
Location:CAMP MIKE SPANN, AF
Hometown:MENTOR, OH, US
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