CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Flashing lights slow traffic over Swift Creek Reservoir. Deputies stand watch as people move into position.
In a small ceremony full of big surprises, Eric Annet and Ethan Clark are graduating from Cosby High School. They never expected a sendoff like this.
Both are receiving $1,000 Kyle Stoeckli scholarships.
Stoeckli was the 21-year-old Cosby graduate killed in action in Afghanistan on June 1, 2013, two weeks before he was scheduled to come home.
“Kyle was a very special young man," his mother Sonja Stoeckli said. “I feel him. Yes. Yes. I feel him.”
Eric and Ethan will honor Kyle by sharing his story.
“The money is nice, but the award is tremendous. And I feel so honored to get this," Eric said.
Anne Canipe organizes Cosby’s Memorial Day ceremony. It is a tradition stretching back 14 years.
“We are so very proud of these young men," Canipe said. ”We’ve had this program ever since we opened Cosby High School. Our country would not be what it is without those who served defending and protecting our freedoms.”
This year’s ceremony was digital, except for the scholarship portion held on the bridge named in Kyle’s honor.
“It means so much to me. It means the world to us. To me and our family," Sonja Stoeckli said.
This span is a place Eric and Ethan know well.
In 2015 as fifth graders, both were present at the dedication. Five years later the teens’ bond is cemented with Kyle Stoeckli thanks to a gift from a soldier’s mom and a bridge spanning water and generations.
“I just remember crying. I didn’t even know who he was, but I was crying," Eric said.
“We will never forget Kyle because of that. His legacy goes on," Sonja said. "I greet him every time I drive over this bridge. I honk. I greet. Laugh.”
“I’m reminded of it every day. And every time I go across that bridge and his sacrifice," Ethan said.
The two teens are looking forward to their next chapters. Eric will be attending Virginia Military Institute, while Ethan will be studying Political Science at Davidson. They say Kyle will be with them every step of the way.