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MILITARY MATTERS: Graduations resume on Ft. Benning after over a year

Updated: May. 27, 2021 at 11:35 AM EDT
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FT. BENNING, Ga. (WTVM) - After more than a year of only virtual graduations, parents and family gathered in person to see their loved ones graduate from Basic Airborne school.

“I’ve never been this proud in my life,” beamed paratrooper graduate’s mother, Jolie Tallant. “I look at the sky and think, oh my gosh, this is my kids jumping out of an airplane 1st. I think it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever watched.”

Tim and Jolie Tallant haven’t seen their son in 5 months, since he shipped off to boot camp.

For the first time since a military-wide shutdown in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they and other parents were able to go to a graduation on Fort Benning.

370 graduated from the Army’s Basic Airborne Course - including 20 year old Private Jacob Tallant.

“He lit up and you could tell it meant so much to him that we were there, I was ecstatic,” said Jolie Tallant.

After doing Airborne graduations for more than a year at their harness shed, leaders on Fort Benning are also excited to have a public ceremony, but it’s not a full return to normal.

To get into the stadium, people had to show proof of COVID vaccination or a negative test within the last three days.

Another change included no hugs from parents and instructors had to pin Airborne wings on the new paratroopers.

“As we move along this COVID-19 journey, we hopefully will get the parents out there where they can pin on the wings like it was a year ago,” said 1-507th Parachute Infantry Reg. Commander, LTC Isaac Henderson.

“The mission is critical, which is why this (Airborne) school stayed running during the entire pandemic, and we’re very happy to be able to have more interaction between families and students,” explained Captain Douglas Snyder.

Proud moms and dads agree it’s much better to be there in person instead of watching on Facebook Live like they’ve been doing.

“When he graduated boot camp, it was hard because I couldn’t be there with him, I wanted to squeeze him. It was an immense pride,” said Tim Tallant, father of the graduate.

“And super thankful we were able to come and do this,” added Jolie Tallant.

This month, Fort Benning also held its first public Basic Combat Training graduation in more than a year.

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