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Army dad watches Ohio son's graduation from field

Jun. 3, 2013 - 09:21AM   |  
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LIMA, OHIO — An Ohio high school made it possible Sunday for a soldier serving in Afghanistan to watch his son graduate.

Lima Senior High School streamed its commencement ceremonies live online so that Army Spc. Dave Sodders could watch his middle son, Doug, turn the tassel.

Sodders said he hoped the arrangement would let Doug know his dad was present.

“I am glad Lima Senior has a way for me to watch it,” Sodders said in an email from Afghanistan to the Lima News. “It is a big deal for kids to have their parents there to see them graduate, but this way I hope he knows I will be there in spirit.”

The family knew when Sodders left for Afghanistan in August that he wouldn’t be able to attend Doug’s graduation, so Doug’s mother, Lisa Sodders, called Lima schools and asked for help. It’s one of many times she’s made special efforts to keep the family connected during her husband’s year away.

Last October, a blown up picture of Dave Sodders’ head attached to a paint stick attended Doug’s high school soccer recognition program.

“So dad has been with us,” she said. “We have gotten creative over the year.”

Sodders joined the Army in the mid-1980s, serving in Operation Desert Storm. After getting out in 1994, he rejoined three and a half years ago because he missed it. Before August, the longest he’d been away from his wife was three weeks.

“The toughest for me has been trying to do it all by myself,” Lisa Sodders said. “We have been together for 20 years, and I am used to having him right by my side. But we have come to terms that we have to do without sometimes.”

Lisa Sodders initially suggested Skype to Lima school officials as an option for graduation. The Sodders family includes a 14-year-old son who’s heading into 9th grade and an older son who’s in the Air Force, so they make frequent use of Skype for face-to-face online conversations.

Officials ultimately decided live streaming would be the best option. They did a test run a few weeks ago to assure the technology would work, and it worked as planned.

Doug’s mother said she “will be thinking my baby is leaving” on Sunday. Doug’s dad, across the miles, said he knows the separation has been stressful and he would be thinking, “I am proud of him making it through and graduating.”

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