Sole graduate takes center stage for late graduation

Retired Maj. Charles Coburn II pins second lieutenant bars on his son, 2nd Lt. Charles Coburn III, June 18. Lieutenant Coburn’s mother, Lesley (right), also took part in the pinning-on ceremony. Photo by J. Rachel Spencer

Retired Maj. Charles Coburn II pins second lieutenant bars on his son, 2nd Lt. Charles Coburn III, June 18. Lieutenant Coburn’s mother, Lesley (right), also took part in the pinning-on ceremony. Photo by J. Rachel Spencer

By Ann Patton

Academy Spirit staff

 

“DISMISSED!”

Cadet 1st Class Charles Coburn III, Cadet Squadron 34, worked hard for four long years to hear that command, the last he had as cadet. It was the magic word he wanted to hear since his direct appointment four years ago. He also waited three weeks longer than most of his classmates, who graduated May 27.

Now 2nd Lt. Coburn, he was the sole graduate as he walked across the stage in the Arnold Hall ballroom June 18 to receive his Bachelor of Science degree in social sciences.

“The day is here, and it is a glorious day,” graduation speaker and Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould said.

“There is nothing wrong with graduating late,” General Gould said, citing Army Gen. George S. Patton, who graduated later than his classmates at the U.S. Military Academy.

“He made out okay,” General Gould quipped.

He reminded the audience of about three dozen that the duty the new graduate assumes be much larger than  his responsibilities at the Academy. He advised the new lieutenant to enjoy the summer and be “the best navigator in the Air Force.”

Lieutenant Coburn needed to finish a course, which held up his graduation until now. He said he was a little disappointed that he could not graduate with the rest of his class, “but as long as I get to graduate, I’m happy.”

One of the best parts of life on the Hill for him was traveling to such spots as Portugal and Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., where he flew in an F-16 Fighting Falcon.

He will head off to the 479th Operations Support Squadron at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., after some well-earned rest and recreation to begin training as a navigator.

“I’m going to go home and relax and take a break for a change,” the Nortonville, Ky., native said.

Lieutenant Coburn is third in line in his family to choose the military as a career. His father, Charles Coburn II, is a retired Air Force major and commissioned his son into the Air Force. His grandfather is a retired Army captain. Both were on hand to see the youngest military Coburn receive his diploma, as were his mother, two sisters, grandmother and Academy friends, faculty and senior leadership.

“He is one of my closest friends,” said classmate 2nd Lt. Chris Prochnow. The two met during Global Engagement exercises and have remained friends ever since.

Grandfather Charles Coburn Sr. said his grandson will no doubt bring solid leadership and determination as an Air Force officer and described him as “honest, hard-working and full of life.”

Lesley Coburn, the cadet-turned-lieutenant’s mother, said perseverance has always played a big part in his life. The smallest member of his high school football team, he came out in the top five for most tackles.

“He always poured his heart into everything he does,” she said.

In the printed program for his graduation, 2nd Lieutenant Coburn wrote, “It’s been a long, hard road, but I finally made it through. Thanks to everyone who helped push me to graduate.”

Late graduation is held after any semester or summer session as needed.