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The graduate, and one tough decision

Graduation weekend kicks off Friday night with celebrations at Wilton-Lyndeborough and Mascenic High School. ConVal will follow with ceremonies the following afternoon. For many of those receiving their diploma, it’s perhaps one last carefree moment before life takes them in a new direction. But for at least one graduate, that moment came months ago when he left for Marine Corps basic training.

On Saturday, Brandon Garabrant, 18, of Greenfield will return to the fields of ConVal one day after marching in his Marine Corps boot camp graduation ceremony in Parris Island, S.C. That he persevered through the rigorous training is impressive. That he did so after completing his ConVal course requirements early shows his commitment and his resolve.

Garabrant’s friends and family are asking that he be allowed to wear his military uniform during graduation ceremonies, rather than dress in the traditional cap and gown. ConVal Principal Brian Pickering denied that request on the grounds that this is a civilian ceremony, and making such an exception will create an unworkable precedent.

Pickering said Wednesday that he’s consulted not just with Student Council members, but also with SMS Principal Dick Dunning, who earned a Purple Heart when he was in the military, and ConVal staff members Sherry Nixon, who has two sons serving in Afghanistan, and Deb Coyne, whose husband is on active duty in the military. They all supported the decision to require Garabrant to wear a cap and gown. Pickering said he’d also received a call from a Marine in Portsmouth who agreed with the ruling. In an email to ConVal staff, Pickering also noted that he’d been “flooded with angry and hateful emails from around the country” after the story broke.

We at the paper have heard a lot of opinions on the issue in the days since the story first published. One of those, however, stands out as off the mark. And that’s the notion that we as a nation or as individuals no longer show support or reverence for those serving in the military. Pickering’s decision can be scrutinized, but his motives certainly were not to minimize Garabrant’s accomplishments. Nor were they to thumb his nose at those who have served their country. His objective as an administrator was solely to uphold a policy in an effort to be fair to all.

In this case, that may be an impossible task. Perhaps by Saturday Pickering will decide to let Brandon march in uniform. If he does, let’s hope it’s because he changed his mind based on the merits of the arguments and not because he didn’t want to be labeled unpatriotic.

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