By Tammy Cario
For the first time in nearly 18 months, family and friends were able to celebrate with their Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center student in person during a graduation ceremony held on the Presidio of Monterey, Aug. 5, 2021.
In-person graduations were interrupted at the beginning of 2020 as COVID-19 spread across the United States. Until now, graduations were performed virtually using a combination of video telecommunication platforms.
“I’ll tell you one thing, it was pretty incredible to hear that your child is a coveted asset,” said Nancy Coumou, whose son, Marine Lance Cpl. Owen Coumou, graduated from the Pashto language program. She and her husband drove down from Freemont, California, to attend the ceremony, a visit they have only been able to do one other time during his nearly year and a half in Monterey, due to COVID-19 restrictions.
At the ceremony, Nancy and her husband sat next to Jackie and Tom Coppola, whose son, Airman 1st Class Thomas Coppola, graduated from the Chinese Mandarin language program. He was also given the Provost Award, DLIFLC’s highest academic award.
“He graduated with highest honors in Chinese. He’s got a 4.0, he’s got his associates, he’s got all kinds of awards. Just so proud,” Coppola’s father said. This visit was Tom’s first time in California, a long flight from their hometown of Cape Coral, Florida.
“Isn’t it amazing to go into a restaurant and hear your son order in the language?” he said to Nancy. “(Thomas) and the waitress were just going back and forth, and it was like, ‘My God, who is this person?’”
Cpl. Coumou, who also received the Command Sergeant Major award, was excited to have his family there in person to see what he and his classmates have accomplished.
“It’s always wonderful having the brass say good things about you in front of the parents,” he said.
Col. James Kievit, DLIFLC commandant, who approved opening up the ceremony to family and friends, was happy to see everyone in person. But, he said, caution is key.
“I am excited for our students to have the opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments with their families – outside and following the current COVID 19 guidelines,” he said. “I am hopeful we are able to continue open graduations but each occurrence will have to be evaluated through the lens of evolving guidelines and the increased threat posed by the Delta variant.”
Posted Date: 5 August 2021