Soldiers see kids graduate online


CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – When 17-year-old Reyniza Sherrell was handed her high school diploma, two of her family members watched with admiration – from thousands of miles away.

Sherrell’s father is deployed in Iraq and her older sister is stationed at an Air Force base in Ramstein, Germany, but both of them were watching live video online of her graduation Friday night in Clarksville.

Seven high schools near Fort Campbell, the home of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, broadcast their graduation ceremonies live over the Internet for the first time for family members stationed overseas.

The ceremonies, held Friday and Saturday, were broadcast on a Web site that soldiers accessed wherever they were stationed.

Reyniza’s mother, Vander, said seeing the graduation was important to her husband, Trodell, whose 10-year career in the military meant missing a lot of birthdays, anniversaries and holidays.

“I think he’s going to be so proud, popping his collar, patting himself on the back,” Vander Sherrell said.

More than 250 graduating seniors from the seven schools along the Kentucky-Tennessee state line have parents who are on duty in Iraq, Fort Campbell spokeswoman Kelly Ann Tyler said. Altogether, more than 20,000 soldiers from the 101st Airborne are in Iraq.

Florida-based XOS Technologies, which provides audio and video software and Internet products to professional and college sports teams, set up the streaming video service free for the base.

Tyler said the service initially was just for soldiers deployed overseas, but later expanded to include family members who lived in other states or couldn’t make it to the graduation.

Command Sgt. Maj. Jerry Wykoff scheduled his leave in order to attend his son’s graduation Friday night, but said he knew many soldiers who were grateful for the opportunity to see the ceremony online.

“I think it means a lot, when you’re so far away, to see your kids graduate when you can’t be there,” Wykoff said.