BEAVERTON – Century Shea of Beaverton graduated as U.S. Army Private First Class from Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri on Thursday, July 9. During normal circumstances, families and loved ones are welcome to attend the graduation ceremonies, however, this year was different.
The Army Times, a military news source, reported in a March 12 article that all basic combat training and advanced individual training graduation ceremony attendance would be canceled for civilians including family members. This was very sad news for Century’s family and as they waited and hoped for better news in the coming months, it never came.
“I started to pray not only for the heartbreak of those families who were being impacted by these difficult decisions, but praying that come July, things would be different,” Century’s mom, Kim Shea said. “Unfortunately, they weren’t. Although we weren’t going to have the graduation experience we hoped for, what hadn’t changed was the fact that our daughter’s hard work and exceptional performance had resulted in her graduation from the United States Army.”
The family and friends of Century were saddened although understanding of the reasoning behind the decision. They did not, however, decide to give up their chance to show Century the support they all believed she deserved. On the day of Century’s graduation, her friends and family met at the Shea’s home in Beaverton to celebrate in the best way they could.
With everyone gathered together on Thursday morning, the Shea’s provided a celebratory breakfast before watching a Facebook Live video that was being screened on every television in the household. Everyone watched as Century walked across the stage and proudly made her statement “Private Shea, Beaverton, Michigan,” and then the Shea home erupted in cheer.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if she heard the roaring cheers 703 miles away,” Kim said. “We are certain she felt them regardless.”
Family and friends then proceeded to share smiles and kind words with one another and even took turns taking photographs with a life sized cardboard cut-out of Century in uniform. Century’s fourth grade teacher, Renee Hargrove was in attendance at the Shea’s house on Thursday and she was grateful to be a part of the ceremony celebration.
“I have had the privilege to be her teacher and have watched her find her spot in this world,” Renee said. “Being asked to watch her graduation last week with her family is something I will never forget. I had goosebumps and tears as Private Shea announced her name at the graduation ceremony. I am beyond grateful that I was asked to join in this momentous occasion and I am extremely proud of my former student.”
Shortly after the event, Century FaceTimed the group and exchanged photos she had from Fort Leonard Wood with some of the photos the group had in Beaverton. She told her friends and family that she had felt the love from everyone in Beaverton, even without them being there.
“This is something we wouldn’t have had if a few of us would have traveled to Fort Leonard Wood as originally planned, and there would have been no reason for a Facebook Live showing of this memorable event,” Kim said. “We have learned that the beauty of life is very much present, we just have to look for it in new ways.”