By Carol Stiffler
Four members of the Newberry High School Class of 2020 have enlisted in the military – two in the Army, two in the National Guard – and were scheduled to leave town before their July 24 graduation ceremony.
So the school held four tiny graduations for them – one for each student. State restrictions allowed only groups of 10 or less, so the graduates were each given their own 15-minute ceremony and allowed to bring only their immediate families. The ceremonies were held Friday, May 29.
Cameron Depew (Army), Seth Huffman (Army), Austin Troop (National Guard), and Tristin Skidmore (National Guard) wore blaze orange caps and gowns and showed up one at a time on Friday.
Depew was first. With a family as large as his, grandparents and other relatives waited in cars outside the high school while Depew graduated. Superintendent and High School Principal Stacy Price gave a short address, and co-valedictorians Carlee Corinth and Jared Wallace and salutatorian Julia Seitz gave recorded video messages. Depew was given his diploma, a clock from the Tahquamenon Education Foundation for having a grade point average above 2.5, an American flag from the American Legion, and a laundry basket full of gifts.
“It was pretty quiet,” Depew said of his graduation. But it did have some of the feeling he expected.
Depew left for basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, on Monday. He joined the army to save money, he said, and plans to become an electrician.
“It would have been nice to see all my friends one more time,” said Depew, who unfurled his new American flag and refused to put it down after the ceremony.
Huffman graduated next, wearing a photo of his friend, Julian, on his graduation cap. Army recruiters on the scene described Huffman as “smiley” and said he would get very strong in the Army. He’ll be able to call home about one week after he arrives to boot camp later this month.
Though he graduated in the mostly empty Bystrom Auditorium, Huffman said he appreciated it. He also received a flag and a pile of gifts – all the graduates did that night.
“It was the best we can do in this pandemic,” he said.
Huffman has wanted to join the Army since he was two years old – he’s following in his grandpa’s footsteps, and his uncle’s.
“It’s more of a tradition,” he said. “I feel I owe our country, and the people of the United States, my service.”
Huffman is now heading to Fort Benning, Georgia.
Austin Troop has the unique distinction of graduating high school one day after getting married. He married his high school sweetheart, Madison Garrett, in the Luce County Courthouse on Thursday, May 28. The pair dated throughout high school and became engaged last fall. Garrett, also a member of the Class of 2020, was homecoming queen.
Going through high school in such a serious relationship was a challenge, they said.
“You’ve got those who support you and those who don’t,” Troop said.
“You’ve got to be each other’s best friends,” Garrett said.
Troop says he is excited to complete his military duty. While he’s gone to Fort Leonard Wood, his wife will go to college. The next time they’ll see each other is August 1.
Finally, Skidmore collected his diploma and gifts. The graduation was “different” he said, but it worked out. He will now head to Fort Leonard Wood, like Depew and Troop.
Joining the military is something he’s always wanted to do, and he will serve as a combat engineer. After serving, Skidmore plans to become an electrical lineman.
Skidmore will be gone until July 24 or 25, which means there’s a chance he’ll be able to attend the graduation ceremony for the rest of his class.
Having his senior year come to a sudden stop was a challenge, he said. “I took it better than some,” Skidmore said.
Price spoke from the heart at each of the four graduation ceremonies and said she felt very strongly that it was important for each of the young men to have a chance to properly graduate.
“You only have one chance for your high school graduation,” Price said. “It is not something that you can redo with your classmates.”
She respects their decisions to join the military.