Marines chastised for wearing uniforms at high school graduation

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MARSHALL, MI (AP/WOOD) — Marshall Public Schools is defending its high school principal and a school board member who chastised two graduates for wearing Marine dress uniforms during their commencement.

Marine spokesman 1st Lt. William Tunney identified the Marshall High School graduates as Pfc. Willie Couch and Pfc. Samuel Hackworth. The district said they decided not to wear their caps and gowns for Sunday’s ceremony, despite the “clearly communicated” requirement.

Superintendent Randy Davis says before the graduation, the Marines’ families asked if they could wear their uniforms at the graduation, and were told no exceptions could be made.

However, the principal offered to provide special cords, add a notation in the commencement program about their status as Marines, and include their rank when their names were called during the ceremony.

“The families disagreed, and declined. The Principal (sic) still arranged for all three things to be done in case the two graduates changed their minds. The Board of Education thought this was a very good compromise,” Davis stated in a post on Facebook.

He said although the graduates didn’t follow the high school’s commencement dress rule, they were allowed to participate in order to avoid disappointing their families.

Davis said after the ceremony, a school board member congratulated both graduates and added “but I am disappointed.”

Davis said the high school principal also privately thanked both graduates for their service and dedication to the country, and added “I do not feel you acted honorably today by not following our rules.”

“Both were simply addressing the two graduates’ decision to not follow the rules for commencement. Neither intended, nor acted, to disrespect these two young men for their honorable service in the Marines,” Davis stated. 

The comments made by the principal and board member led to backlash against the district on Facebook.

Davis said he’s reached out to military recruiters and local veterans to see if there are any recommendations for such a situation involving military members.

Tunney says Couch and Hackworth graduated Friday from recruit training and are to report Monday to Infantry school in North Carolina for continued combat training.

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