More than 40 students can now be called ‘graduates,’ after a Joint Services Graduation and recognition ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Nov. 14. Of the 42 students who graduated, 11 earned master’s degrees, 22 earned bachelor’s degrees and nine earned associate degrees.

One of the graduates, Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Bridgeforth, received an associate degree in general studies from Columbia Southern University.

“It was very challenging and rewarding,” he said, after the ceremony. “Education is so important, because you need education for promotion points in the Army and to be marketable and successful after you leave the service.”

“If I can study and do it, absolutely anyone out there can,” Bridgeforth said. “Education puts you years ahead.”

Bridgeforth is already working on his bachelor degree and expects to graduate in the spring. His mother, Mary M. Wilson, said with a smile after the ceremony, “I’m very proud of my baby boy.”

Sgt. Jewel King, another graduate, said, “Education is very important to open doors and opportunities.” Her new professional studies associate degree is from Trident University International. “Getting an education is one of the best ways you can have ‘self-care,’” she said. King, assigned to the 249th Engineer Battalion, said she’s also set to further her studies and get a bachelor’s degree in cyber studies.

Before the degrees were conferred, guest speakers celebrated the graduates’ accomplishments.

Fort Belvoir Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Jason Young said, “The Army’s Continuing Education System has a long history of helping our military community get the support they need to invest in their education, not only to better their lives, but the lives of their families and our nation.”

“These graduates will be better thinkers, doers and leaders, as they take on challenges of work, family and community, with many more tools in their toolbox,”

Young said he’s especially proud to see enlisted Soldiers getting their degrees and encouraged the graduates to inspire others in formations, to make learning a life-long goal.

Col. Kimberly Peeples, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Garrison commander, also spoke, saying she was honored to host the joint recognition ceremony and recognize the graduates’ accomplishments.

“Each and every one of you are to be admired and lauded for your determination and dedication, to fulfill the working responsibilities, personal responsibilities and hard work of earning this college degree,” Peebles said. “This diligence and extraordinary accomplishments, we honor today, on this life-changing event.

Graduation guest speaker Jonathan Woods, acting director of Voluntary Education in the Office of the Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness, acknowledged audience members who wear or have ever worn our nation’s uniform and said “To see a room full of warriors, on an installation full of warriors, in a nation of warriors is very powerful,” Woods said. “Our warriors are our scholars and our scholars are our warriors.

“Warrior-scholars are a unique group, as 250,000 Service members participate in voluntary education programs each year and about 50,000 graduate.”

Woods provided social compacts, or covenants, in his advice to the graduates and told them to treat relationships, service and resources like they matter.