Fishburne marks 132nd Commencement

The final order came down, and a flurry of hats flew into the air, marking the end of 35 cadet careers at Fishburne Military School.

“It’s been long-awaited,” said Alex Burkard of Stuarts Draft, who began at Fishburne as an eighth-grader, and for whom the graduation ceremony on Saturday was the end of five years on campus.

For In Cheol Yang of Seoul, South Korea, the 2011 class valedictorian, it was more a whirlwind.

“The first year was very hard, but my new friends helped me, and the teachers helped me,” said Yang, who didn’t know English when he began his studies at FMS as a junior.

Yang, who will attend the University of Washington in the fall to study architecture, said he wanted to attend Fishburne Military School because he said military-school training like the kind offered at Fishburne is not offered in South Korea.

All 35 graduates have been accepted to college and will matriculate at campuses across the country in the fall. But the fall is a ways off.

“Now that it’s finally happened, it almost seems surreal,” said Burkard, who will attend Virginia Commonwealth University and plans to go to medical school.

“It’s the end of something really special to me, and something that I’m really going to miss. But at the same time, it’s moving on to the next level. And I know that I’ll never forget my fellow cadets,” said Sean Wrigley of Baton Rouge, La., who will attend the College of William and Mary in the fall and plans to pursue a career as an orthopedic surgeon.

Commencement speaker Emmett Hanger, a Virginia state senator and U.S. Army and National Guard veteran, counseled the graduates to set lofty goals and then work hard to try to achieve them.

“If you want to accomplish something, first you’ve got to decide what it is that you want to accomplish,” said Hanger, who advised graduates that nothing worth doing can be done “without some sacrifice in attaining that goal.”

“You are special. Each and every one of you is special. Don’t you forget that, and don’t you let those around you forget that,” Hanger said.