Principal: Marine can’t wear uniform instead of cap, gown
Brandon Garabrant, 18, will be graduating from the U.S. Marine Corps boot camp in Parris Island, S.C., on Friday. That night, Brandon and his family will get on a plane to fly back to New Hampshire, so that the Greenfield man can join his ConVal High School classmates at Saturday’s graduation festivities, where he’ll receive his ConVal diploma.
Brandon has been hoping to march into the ConVal ceremony wearing his Marine uniform, rather than the traditional cap and gown, but that probably won’t happen, according to his mother, Jessie Garabrant.
“I guess it’s been a long-term policy that everyone has to wear the cap and gown,” Jessie Garabrant said last week. “We were told he’d have to wear a cap and gown over the uniform. When I first heard that, I thought it was a disgrace to the uniform.”
Garabrant said ConVal Principal Brian Pickering told her that the graduation ceremony is intended to celebrate the accomplishments of the ConVal seniors as an entire class, without singling out individual students for specific achievements or for their future plans.
“I understand that,” Garabrant said. “The distinction is that Brandon is completing boot camp during his high school years. He was able to get all his credits in early. I understand the concern about not wanting to make a big deal out of one person, but I’d love to see the policy changed.”
Garabrant said Brandon’s sister, Mykala, who attends ConVal, is circulating a petition asking school administrators to change the policy. Another petition is being circulated to seniors who are on a class trip.
Garabrant said her son started looking into going into the military while he was a junior last year.
“This is something he always dreamed of,” she said. “His birthday is on Veterans’ Day. He’s always been service oriented. He loves to help people and he’s always been very patriotic. It became very clear that his future was with the Marines. He enlisted on the day he met with the Marine recruiter. It was a no-brainer.”
Brandon finished his academic requirements at ConVal this winter. On March 11, he left New Hampshire to attend the 13-week boot camp in South Carolina. His mother said after he enlisted on a delayed enrollment basis, they planned his final year at ConVal and intentionally scheduled the date he would enter boot camp in order to give him the opportunity to wear his Marine uniform at graduation.
On Friday, Pickering said that after Garabrant spoke to him, he had discussed the request with the high school’s Student Council, without using Brandon’s name.
“We wanted the Student Council input. Everyone felt this is a celebration of this class and what everyone had accomplished,” Pickering said. “It wasn’t any disrespect to the military. We recognize what people are planning to do beyond high school.”
Pickering said students are allowed and encouraged to wear cords, pins or other devices on the outside of their robes that indicate their individual accomplishments and future plans.
“That’s certainly an option for Brandon,” Pickering said. “Every year, we have students who are accepted to colleges, are going into the military, have earned various types of certifications. The question is, where to you draw the line?”
Pickering said Brandon’s desire to wear his uniform rather than the cap and gown would be akin to a high school football player who’d been accepted at Notre Dame wanting to wear a gold helmet in his final game rather than one that matches those of his teammates.
“Going to Notre Dame would be a great accomplishment, but the game is about the team,” Pickering said.
Pickering said it had been more than a month since he last talked to Jessie Garabrant and passed on the feedback from the Student Council. He said he hasn’t received any petition from ConVal students.
He also said Brandon will certainly be able to wear his uniform under his gown, and once the class has graduated, he can remove the gown if he wishes and march out in uniform.
“Once they come off the stage, they can all celebrate their individual accomplishments,” he said.
Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.