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MONDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2015  08:05:03 PM

Heights graduates class of more than 500 students

Email   Print   Share By Erin Rogers, Sentinel Staff
June 13, 2013 | News
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At the conclusion of the 2013 Harker Heights graduation ceremony, graduates toss their caps in the air in celebration Sunday at Bell County Expo Center. In total, 589 students were part of the 2013 graduating class. Erin Rogers, Sentinel Staff
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Members of the Harker Heights High School JROTC Female Color Guard prepare to march in the colors at the beginning of the graduation ceremony Sunday. Daniel Cernero, Sentinel Staff
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Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, International Security Assistance Force Joint Command and III Corps commanding general, delivers an address from Kabul, Afghanistan, via video teleconference at the Harker Heights High School graduation Sunday at the Bell County Expo Center. Erin Rogers, Sentinel Staff
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Harker Heights graduating senior Chance Usrey walks across the stage at the Bell County Expo Center, shaking hands with David Manley, Harker Heights principal, and Robert Muller, Killeen ISD superintendent. Daniel Cernero, Sentinel Staff
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Noah Golaboff delivers the valedictorian address to the Harker Heights class of 2013 Sunday at the Bell County Expo Center. Daniel Cernero, Sentinel Staff
BELTON - Thousands of family and friends of Harker Heights High School seniors watched as the 589 graduates received their diplomas at the Bell County Expo Center Sunday.

The graduates, clad in red graduation caps and gowns, filed into the arena to hear the congratulations and thanks from their teachers, fellow students and community leaders before walking across the stage one by one.

After the Harker Heights JROTC Color Guard Posted the colors and Heights senior Suzanna Brown sang the national anthem, the guests of the Expo Center watched a video and listened to a congratulations speech from Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, International Security Assistance Force Joint Command and III Corps commanding general, all the way from Afghanistan.

“All of us here in Kabul thank all of you; you serve the United States alongside us,” Milley said. “You serve this country by supporting your parents and Family members who are deployed, and for that, we owe you a big thanks.

“Your parents would love to be with you right now as you graduate, but the call of duty keeps them away,” Milley said. “Though their thoughts are with you all, they have to be away in order to keep our great nation a free, stable and democratic nation.”

Milley extended the “heartiest of Central Texas congratulations” to the seniors and assured them that their parents’ military service is an act of love because their parents want them to grow up free and happy.

“You are the future leaders of the United States,” Milley told the graduates. “Your parents, your teachers and all of us here in Afghanistan are extremely proud of you.”

Before Milley spoke to the seniors and while most of the graduates were completing final preparations to walk across the stage, 12 Harker Heights graduates were having private video-teleconferences with their deployed Family members who couldn’t be at their graduation Sunday.

“My dad left for Afghanistan with III Corps in April,” said Chance Usrey, Harker Heights graduate. “He told me how proud he was when we were talking a little while ago, and told me he obviously wished he could be here – told me all about his life in Afghanistan.

“It didn’t completely hit me that I was graduating until the last day of school, when I walked through the doors for the last time,” Usrey said, thinking about his high school career ending. “It just hit me that I’m done. It’s all done. All the years of struggling to get things done at the last minute – that’s done,” he added with a laugh.

Usrey fell in with his classmates to the arena and watched as the senior class gift, a new anchor desk and green-screen equipment, was presented to the high school by Anna Jordan, Heights senior and student council officer, before listening to the valedictory and salutatory addresses from his classmates.

“For many of us this is our first great accomplishment,” said Zachary Snider, Heights class of 2013 salutatorian. “But for all of us, this isn’t our last.

“As we head headfirst into the next chapter of our lives, we have to remember that the choices we make will dictate the rest of our lives,” Snider said.

“Today marks the beginning of us making our own decisions,” Noah Golaboff, Heights class of 2013 valedictorian, echoed. “But today isn’t about the tough decisions yet. Today is about celebrating everything we’ve accomplished so far.

“I don’t have a magical answer for all the questions that lie ahead of us … but what we’ve grown used to is over … we’re off on a new adventure,” Golaboff said, “Congratulations guys, we did it.”

The graduates walked across the stage one by one and received their diplomas from various members of the Killeen Independent School District Board of Trustees before heading out to their various celebrations with family and friends.

“You have succeeded at every opportunity so far,” Milley told the graduates. “Now, it’s time to seize even more opportunities.”
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