CLEARWATER — It seemed inevitable that Edgar Jusino, stationed in Kuwait, would miss Countryside High School's graduation.
Or so his daughter, Chelsea, thought.
"I have missed many important dates in your life," Edgar Jusino said as 524 graduating seniors watched video of him flash on the JumboTron at Bright House Field on Thursday. "For this I am sorry."
But as his daughter wiped tears from her eyes, Jusino reminded her that he will always take care of her.
"I want you to know I will always be there for you in your most difficult times."
Following the video message, Darren Ayres, brigade chaplain of the rear division of the 53rd Infantry Brigade of the Florida National Guard, presented Chelsea with flowers.
Edgar Jusino approached the school in December, just before he was going overseas, where he is assisting with convoys in and out of Iraq. He filmed his special message at Countryside's TV studio. Before today, only a few school officials knew about the video message.
"I was so surprised," Chelsea said in a phone call to her father after the ceremony. "I loved it."
In a telephone interview, Jusino said that "hard is not the word" to describe how difficult it is to be away from his family at times like this.
"On the phone with her now I had to hold back some tears," he said.
Chelsea's response: "It's okay, Daddy. I love you."
Number of grads: 409
Speaker: Mayor Bill Foster, Class of 1981
A moment: When Kyle Carver walked across the stage Thursday morning, someone very special was missing. His mother, who suffered a stroke in May, is recovering at Bayfront Medical Center and could not attend the commencement program at the school. But school officials fixed that several hours later, when they held a small ceremony for Kyle, his mother and about 25 family and friends in a seventh-floor hospital room. Clad in his cap and gown, Kyle, a football player who plans to attend St. Petersburg College, received his diploma from assistant principal Greg Zornes. Afterward, mother and son embraced for several seconds. "Everybody was all teary-eyed," Zornes said. "It was just a really, really cool feeling. It was really special."
Number of grads: 476
Speakers: Valedictorians Autumn Eliason and Mijana Djurdjevic, senior class president Christian Verhulst, student government president Travis Wright.
Quote: "Make life an adventure. Our next adventure starts after tonight. What's past is prologue," said Verhulst.
Number of grads: 375
Guest speaker: Astronaut and Clearwater High graduate Nicole Stott.
A moment: Stott showed a slide show of photos she took from space.
Numbers on 2010
Number of grads: 405
Number of grads: 87
Number of grads: 310
Number of grads: 357
Number of grads: 6
Number of grads: 319
Number of grads: 367
Graduating today: East Lake, Palm Harbor, Pinellas Park high schools.
Contributing: Nathaniel French, Alexa Volland, Jim Damaske