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Marine's dress blues won't do at ConVal graduation

Union Leader Correspondent

June 06. 2013 1:41AM

Brandon Garabrant, 18, who is graduating from Marine boot camp Friday, wants to wear his Marine uniform and not a cap and gown to his ConVal High School graduation in Peterborough on Saturday. (COURTESY)

PETERBOROUGH — "Brandon deserves to wear his uniform," reads the sign hanging next to an American flag in the window of Kate's Cuts on Route 202, down the road from ConVal High School.

Brandon Garabrant, 18, of Greenfield is graduating from Marine boot camp Friday in South Carolina, and will be home in time for his ConVal High School graduation Saturday. His mother, Jessie Garabrant, said his request to wear his uniform instead of a cap and gown was refused by school officials, who cited graduation policy. A cap and gown will have to cover his uniform.

"I'm overwhelmed with the support of the community. It's just wonderful," Jessie Garabrant said. "People are just outraged, our friends and family. That's how this all started. Brandon doesn't know this has become such a controversy."

ConVal Principal Brian Pickering said Wednesday the decision is consistent with the school's graduation procedure to mark the day, not what's to come.

"With all due respect to the military, it's not a celebration of what's next, what's after that," Pickering said. "This has been a procedure for a number of years at ConVal High School," he said.

The intent is to have a unified class celebration of the accomplishment of achieving a high school diploma, Pickering said.

"We actively support students who wear uniforms to school," he said.

Jessie Garabrant said because her son is in boot camp, he doesn't even know about the media attention that has resulted from his request to wear his Marine dress blues.

"He has no idea how big this has gotten," she said.

Because Garabrant had the credits to graduate a semester early, he was able to leave in March for his 13-week Marine boot camp training.

"Personally, I feel like this accomplishment that he's made during his high school career — I think it should be acknowledged at the high school graduation," Jessie Garabrant said.

It's the patriotic and honorable thing for all who serve in the military, and should be a federal law that military be allowed to wear their uniforms, she said, adding: "They put their lives on the line for us."

Jessie Garabrant first talked to Pickering about six weeks ago. After consulting with school officials, Pickering told her the policy would not be changed. Brandon could wear the uniform, but under his cap and gown.

"I was told when they were going to march out, he could take it (the gown) off," Jessie Garabrant said.

Wednesday, members of the graduation committee came out in support of the decision, including staff members who have family in active duty, Pickering said. They include Sherry Nixon, who has two sons serving in Afghanistan, and Deb Coin, whose husband is on active duty.

Pickering said since the story has spread, he has gotten support from numerous military personnel and military families via phone calls and emails.

Jessie Garabrant said she has also received support from those upset by the decision.

Her daughter, Mykala, also a ConVal High School student, started a petition asking that Brandon be allowed to wear his uniform; it is still circulating at the high school, she said. Many people have called her asking to sign the petition, Garabrant said.

Pickering said he has not seen the petition.

Garabrant said Marines are expected to wear their dress blues to ceremonies they attend, so she is not sure what Brandon will do.

"He's in between a rock and a hard place," she said.

But whatever Brandon decides to do will be respectful of both the Marines and ConVal High School, she said.

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