When the stepdaughter of a fallen Green Beret walked across the stage for her high school graduation, the cheers from 80 soldiers of the Army 7th Special Forces Group filled the football field.

They were keeping the promise Staff Sgt. Mark De Alencar had made to his stepdaughter, 17-year-old Octavia Osborne, that he'd make it to graduation.

He didn't make it. He was killed in Afghanistan in April. So his fellow soldiers went in his place.

In February, before he deployed, the Green Beret talked with Octavia, whom he had raised since she was 3 years-old, and promised he would be home in time for the ceremony, according to an article from the Northwest Florida Daily News. 

After he was killed in action in Nangarhar province, Octavia's mother, Natasha, was contacted by a member of an Army care team. 

"They asked me if I would ask the school administration if there would be enough room for some of the Green Berets from the 7th Group to attend," De Alencar's widow recalled in the news story. "I asked how many, and he said 'about 80.' I was like, '80? Really?'"

Octavia knew some of her father's brothers-in-arms would be there in his place on May 25 at Niceville High School, but she didn't know what it would mean for her. 

As her feet touched the steps while she made her way to the stage, the Green Berets – and many of their families who accompanied them – rose from their seats and their cheers rang out.

"[It was] like she'd scored the winning touchdown," Octavia's grandmother, Yolanda Thornton, recalled. "My grandbaby had scored the winning touchdown!"

Octavia was caught off guard. "I didn't know if I should be embarrassed, starstruck or what," she said, "but it was really like an exciting rush."

Thornton said as she looked at the stands, filled with these men in uniform, she thought of her son-in-law.

"I thought, 'Mark, you gotta be looking down and smiling down on this one,'" she said. "They reached out on behalf of their fallen brother to let his daughter know they were going to be there for her. It made my heart feel so good, because she had been through so much to get to that day."

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