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Petty Officers 1st Class Angela Warner (center left) and Julianny Acosta, instructors with the Field Medical Training Battalion aboard Camp Johnson, stand in their graduate attire with command personnel of the FMTB after receiving their college diplomas after the 16th Annual Commanding Officer’s Graduation Ceremony at the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune theatre, June 3. Eight colleges with branch offices at the Lejeune Education Center aboard the base graduated nearly 100 students during the ceremony, 722 service members and civilians graduating overall.

Photo by Cpl. Jonathan G. Wright

Lejeune service members graduate college in 16th annual Commanding Officer’s Graduation Ceremony

3 Jun 2011 | Cpl. Jonathan G. Wright

William Yeats, an Irish poet and playwright of the early 20th century, once said that “education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” In other words, the important factor of education is not the amount one has, but how one applies it.

“Knowledge is the starting point for becoming better individuals,” said Lt. Gen. John Paxton, commanding general of II Marine Expeditionary Force and commander of U.S. Marine Forces Africa. “And what matters is what you do with that knowledge.”

Paxton’s audience when he spoke of the power of individual education were nearly 100 recently-graduated service members and civilians as well as their friends and families during the 16th annual Commanding Officer’s Graduation Ceremony held at the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune theater, June 3.

Of the 722 students graduating from eight colleges with classes offered at the Lejeune Education Center, these men and women gathered clad in cap and gown to receive their diplomas.

“This is all so surreal,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Angela Warner, an instructor with the Field Medical Training Battalion aboard Camp Johnson. “It’s feels so good and relieving to finally have some closure after so many years.”

Warner, who graduated from the University of Phoenix with a bachelor’s degree in Human Services Management, is one of the many tens of thousands of service members who opt for a higher degree of education while on active duty.

“There have now been approximately 172,000 visits to the education center in the first six months of this year,” said Col. Daniel Lecce, commanding officer of MCB Camp Lejeune. “There are a total of 722 graduates for the 2010-2011 year, with 77 of them earning their master’s degrees.”

However, as one may expect, attending college classes, be they online or in an actual classroom setting, can be taxing at times, considering the average activity of a service member in a four-year span. This was not just college in the sense of attending after graduating high school because there wasn’t anything else for an individual to do at the time. These men and women had to work overtime for their education.

“There are some of you in this room today who have either persevered through deployments, changes in duty stations or the absence of loved ones, but you made it,” said Paxton.

Although not having been deployed during her studies for her bachelor’s, Warner herself, as an instructor with the FMTB, started her days at 4 a.m., not getting to her college homework until 7 p.m. after putting her sons to bed. In their own ways, all the graduates who turned the tassels of their caps from the right to the left had their own obstacles to overcome in their quest for education, and each one of them succeeded.

“Great works are not performed by strength, but perseverance,” said Lecce. “Perseverance is a trait found in great leaders, so I charge every one of you to continue seeking self-improvement and encourage others to do so as well.”

For more information on the colleges offered by the Lejeune Education Center and how to start college classes, call 449-9748.