T-storm
69°
T-storm
Hi 87° | Lo 64°

ConVal

Marine opts for cap, gown

Respectful ending to what became hot issue

  • Brandon Garabrant graduated from ConVal High School, one day after completing Marine boot camp.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Brandon Garabrant graduated from ConVal High School, one day after completing Marine boot camp.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Brandon Garabrant graduated from ConVal High School, one day after completing Marine boot camp.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Brandon Garabrant graduated from ConVal High School, one day after completing Marine boot camp.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Brandon Garabrant graduated from ConVal High School, one day after completing Marine boot camp.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Brandon Garabrant graduated from ConVal High School, one day after completing Marine boot camp.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Brandon Garabrant graduated from ConVal High School, one day after completing Marine boot camp.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Brandon Garabrant graducated from ConVal High School, one day after completing Marine boot camp.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Brandon Garabrant graduated from ConVal High School, one day after completing Marine boot camp.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

PETERBOROUGH — Marine Brandon Garabrant chose not to wear his Marine Corps uniform to the ConVal High School graduation ceremony on Saturday, bringing closure to a week-long controversy that drew the attention of Boston and Manchester television stations and a range of national comment, both pro and con, from denizens of the Internet.

Garabrant, 18, graduated from Marine Corps basic training in Parris Island, S.C., on Friday. He flew home with his family after that ceremony in order to attend his high school graduation, getting back late Friday night to their Greenfield home. He had completed his academic work earlier this year, and spent the past 13 weeks in boot camp.

Garabrant, who had arranged the timing of his training so that he’d be a full-fledged Marine prior to the ConVal graduation, had asked permission to wear his uniform instead of a cap and gown in the high school ceremony. ConVal Principal Brian Pickering, after discussions with the Student Council, turned down that request several weeks ago. A week of so before graduation, Garabrant’s mother, Jessie Garabrant, went public, saying she felt Pickering’s decision was “a disgrace to the uniform.” After stories appeared in the Ledger-Transcript and other papers, the issue quickly drew nationwide attention.

Pickering said last week that he’d been flooded with angry emails protesting his decision, but that the graduation ceremony was intended to celebrate the accomplishments of the class as a whole, not just one individual.

On Saturday, Garabrant, said he was willing to follow the school’s policy.

“I respect the decision,” he said, while standing outside the school after the graduation ceremony, having shed his cap and gown but proudly sporting the Marine Corps T-shirt that he wore beneath his gown. “I really had no clue what had been going on. I didn’t think it would get as much notice as it did.”

“We made a request. It was denied. The public responded,” said Jessie Garabrant as she stood next to her son. “I’m very proud of Brandon. He’s very respectful.”

Two Marines — Sgt. Derek Spoor, who had recruited Garabrant, and Sgt. Bryan Lett, a public relations officer based in Portsmouth — attended the graduation in their dress uniforms and congratulated Garabrant afterward.

On Thursday, Lett had issued a statement backing Pickering’s decision.

“On behalf of recruiting station Portsmouth and the U.S. Marine Corps we would like to congratulate Pfc. Brandon Garabrant on not only graduating high school but fulfilling all of his educational requirements early, thus allowing him to ship to recruit training and become one of the newest members of our beloved corps. The U.S, Marine Corps is proud to have him amongst our ranks, but support the school’s decision to have Pfc. Garabrant walk across the stage in a cap and gown, as this is recognition of his accomplishments at ConVal and the final chapter of his high school career.”

On Saturday, Lett said wearing the Marine uniform underneath a cap and gown, which was an option Pickering had suggested to Jessie Garabrant, would have been against Marine Corps regulations. He said it was appropriate for Garabrant to wear civilian clothes to a civilian ceremony.

“We came here today to show our support, to let [Garabrant] know we are on his side,” Lett said. “Today was about his high school experience.”

Pickering said he spoke briefly to Garabrant after the Marine accepted his diploma from ConVal School Board Chair Butch Estey.

“I shook his hand, and I thanked him for his service to his country,” Pickering said.

Garabrant said he will be home on leave for 10 days, then return first to Camp Geiger in North Carolina for combat training and then move to Camp Lejeune, also in North Carolina, for eight weeks of combat engineer training.

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

There are no comments yet. Be the first!
Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.