Another one of the blessings of Steve’s cardiac bypass surgery was the timing of it. Although his surgery was only three weeks ago, Steve was recovered enough to be able to go to our son’s graduation last week; the first of the three graduations happening for our family this May.


Ethan gets his diploma from the DLI. Even in formal dress uniform, he’s not immune to teasing from his sister. Jennifer especially liked his kicky beret.

On Thursday, we packed Steve, his pain meds and pillow and drove to Monterey for Ethan’s graduation ceremony from the Defense Language Institute (DLIFLC is the full acronym). The DLI is a pretty cool place because it is where every branch of the military sends their soldiers for language training; it doesn’t matter what rank you are, if you need to learn a language to do your job in the military, the DLI is where you are sent. Privates, lieutenants, Green Berets, sailors, Marine Special Ops, airmen…they are all there.

The length of time that a service member spends at the DLI is determined by the language they are learning. French and German are six month programs; Korean which Ethan was studying is an 18 month program. Eight hours a day of Korean in a class of about eight students…passing the proficiency test is as much a victory in overcoming the tedium of the program as it is in mastering the language.

We didn’t really know what to expect at the graduation ceremony except that we were sure it would start exactly on time at 10:15am (this is the military) and that the graduates probably wouldn’t be tossing beach balls to each other. Although there are 3,500 service members at the DLI, the graduation was actually a very intimate ceremony and very different than when we watched Ethan graduate with thousands of other students at SF State. It was held at the Post Theater and because the soldiers learn their language in small groups, they graduate in small groups. There are graduation ceremonies almost every week of the year.

As with all graduations, there were introductions, speeches and special awards. I loved seeing the array of ribbons and metals proudly worn by each graduating soldier.

Ethan graduated from his language program, but can he speak Korean? He’s says he’s not entirely sure. But after the last 18 months at the DLI, he has proven that he can indeed persevere.

We are very proud of him.