FORT KNOX, Ky. – “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” The Mark Twain quote used by Col. Scott Sonsalla during his speech to the Cadets of 9th Regiment, Advanced Camp and their families perfectly sums up the sentiments of today’s graduation. For the group of Cadets, the ceremony marks a coming of age and one giant step closer to becoming Army Officers.

Cadets of 9th Regiment, Advanced Camp graduate in front of family, friends, and special guests. Cadet Summer Training 2018 (Fort Knox, Ky. August 14) Photos by: Jakob Coombes

The morning sun shined on the cheerful faces of the young Cadets, as they stood proudly at attention. Maj. Gen. John R. Evans, Jr. began the ceremony by addressing the Cadets and their family members, making sure to stress what an impressive feat they had accomplished in their month stay at Fort Knox. Evans would go on to say, “This has been one of the toughest summers of training we have ever had. This group managed to battle the heat, cold and wet storms, and many sleepless nights. They have earned the respect of everyone here.”

The half-hour graduation felt like an eternity for the Cadets, as excitement grew the closer it got to the end. Finally, the time had come with the playing of the Army song and the conducting of Pass-in-Review. The Cadets marched in unison across the lively Brooks Field, onward to the next stage of their Army careers.

Cadet Karli Ring, George Washington University, receives the USAA Warrior Spirit Award August 14 at the 9th Regiment Advanced Camp graduation. Cadets earn this award for best demonstrating the Army Profession, Ethics and Officership while best exemplifying the warrior spirit. Fort Knox, Ky. Photo by: Jakob Coombes

USAA Warrior Spirt Award winner, Karli Ring of George Washington University talked about the experience during her time at Advanced Camp. “My time here was great. In retrospect I feel like I was very well prepared for camp and I think our program back home was the main reason. There, they preach self-discipline, being able to create a standard for yourself and also holding everyone around you to that same level.”

When asked if there was anything she was not prepared for, Ring’s stated, “The biggest surprise was not knowing how quickly I’d become connected to my fellow Cadets. It’s amazing how deep our bond became in such a short amount of time.”

Cadet Rylee Fluharty, Pennsylvania State University, receives the Norton Healthcare Award August 14 at the 9th Regiment Advanced Camp graduation. This award is presented to the Nurse Cadet that best demonstrates the ability to perform under stress while applying critical thinking skills to make accurate and immediate decisions. Fort Knox, Ky. Photo by: Jakob Coombes

For many back home, or those listening to the Cadets’ stories of camp, it may come as a surprise to hear them say they would do it all again. An abundant amount of Cadets would willingly relive the struggle, pain, and hardship because of the strong memories they made and cherish.

For anyone who may question why, Cadet Rylee Fluharty of Pennsylvania State University sums it all up perfectly, “We all bonded over our shared experience. In the end, you just have to embrace the suck.”