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NEWS | June 14, 2022

456th Medical Company Area Support honors Soldier with impromptu commencement ceremony during Defender 22

By Sgt. Tara Fajardo Arteaga 113th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

U.S. Army Spc. Peter Vanechanos, a medic assigned to the 456th Medical Company Area Support of the U.S. Army Reserve, received a surprise from his unit with an impromptu commencement ceremony to celebrate the graduation he was missing while on military orders supporting Defender Europe 22, here, May 23, 2022.

Vanechanos completed his degree cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Genetics with a concentration in genomics and bioinformatics.

“I had no idea it was going to happen, they blindfolded me and made it a surprise,” said Vanechanos, “it was amazing. This ceremony meant a lot more to me because it was with all my fellow Soldiers, it meant a lot that they were willing to go out of their way to make that happen for me.”

U.S. Soldiers of the 456th MCAS chipped in their time, talent and treasure to make the most of the ceremony. They made a mortarboard graduation hat out of cardboard and a surgical gown that featured the signatures of each member of the unit. Donned in a U.S. Army poncho as his graduation gown, Vanechanos was led around the motor pool to disorient him. A fellow Soldier yelled out, “3, 2, 1” and they removed the blindfold to reveal his entire unit sitting on concrete blocks that had been set up in an outdoor theatre-style seating arrangement. At the front, concrete blocks had been used to form a podium and they had written “DPTA Commencement Class of 2022” on a cardboard sign and duct-taped it to the podium.

“I felt honored and really humbled by the ceremony. The fact that I had field grade officers, and also a lot of the doctors that were there actually speaking at my graduation, for example, Maj. Wyatt Traina being the commencement speaker meant a lot to me,” said Vanechanos, “as well as shaking my commander and first sergeant’s hand, all of that was great and I felt honored.”

Vanechanos and his fellow Soldiers of the 456th MCAS of the U.S. Army Reserve deployed to Drawsko Pomorskie Training Area, Poland, in support of Defender Europe 22 May 13-29. Defender Europe 22 is a multinational, regular joint, and combined exercise organized by the United States Armed Forces to build preparedness and interoperability between Allies and partners of the USA and NATO.