Soldier with Raleigh County roots pushes through, despite pandemic forcing no family at graduation

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BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — While working at the Raleigh County Circuit Clerk’s office, countless pictures remind Mary Sizemore of her greatest treasures in life, especially Bethany, her firstborn.

“To say that I’m proud, there’s no words that can describe it,” Mary said.

Her pride and joy is now a private first class in the U.S. Army. But Bethany’s journey was a long and difficult one, beginning with basic training in South Carolina on June 15th, 2020 — the exact day she turned 18.

“I didn’t get to talk to her on her birthday,” Mary said. “That’s the first birthday that… I didn’t get to tell her ‘Happy Birthday.'”

On top of the challenges brought on by basic training, Bethany’s group had an invisible enemy to fight.

“They started out with, I think, 63 girls. 32 tested positive for COVID and got recycled back,” Mary said. “[They] pushed their graduation date back over a month.”

For Bethany, discipline brought on by basic training expanded beyond its usual suspects.

“Along with having the stress of drill sergeants yelling at you, you had [them] yelling at you for more… about not being socially distanced, not wearing your mask right, not doing this or that while working out, doing intense things,” Bethany said.

Thankfully, Bethany tested negative and carried on with her mission. But that wasn’t all.

“She got a stress fracture in her hip… the second week of training,” Mary said. “She begged them not to medically discharge her or recycle her, because she wanted to continue through.

“If I step back, then I slow down,” Bethany explained. “I can’t keep going forward if I step back.”

When time came for Bethany and her fellow comrades to graduate, the pandemic forced all families, including hers, to witness their cadets becoming American soldiers from their homes, not in person.

“Everything that I wanted my parents to see me achieve… they only got to watch it through a Facebook Live,” Bethany said. “Even then, the live… didn’t really showcase us all.”

“To be told that you can’t go to such a huge accomplishment… it was just heartbreaking,” Mary said.

Bethany is now furthering her training to become a cryptologic linguist in California. While her daughter is once again so far away, Mary knows she is always close to her heart.

“I’m just amazed,” Mary said. “I’m just blown away at what she’s doing, and how well she’s doing with it.”

In turn, Bethany credits her family, friends and support circle for getting her through then and now.

“Going through basic training, seeing and hearing from all of these people who have this pride in me… it fuels me,” Bethany said. “It gives me a reason to keep moving forward.”

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