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Marines and Dress Blues disrespected

contributed by Dane Brown (this story was also reported on Fox News on the 12th, so I've been told), also please see the response from the Superintendent of Schools at the end of this item.

This is the first time that I have ever sent an email to the people that have signed our Guestbook here at "It's Just A Nam Thing", but I just had to send this out.

First, write down this fax number because I think your going to want to send a fax after you read this.

Memorial High School
Elkhart, IN 46514
Fax Number: 219-262-5625
School Supt: Mr. Bechtold
Principle: Mrs. Cook

Memorial: Two in Uniform barred from ceremonies.
By: Shannon Alexander, Truth Staff, June 7,2001

Two Marines were turned away from their graduation from Memorial High School thursday night because school officials said their military uniform did not meet school dress codes for commencement. The school's decision has left the students hurt, their parents in shock, and local Marines fuming. "I sort of feel like they have no respect for the military or what I have been through. They tried to make it out like I was trying to single myself from the rest of the group, which I wasn't. I was just being a Marine" said PFC David Hobbs. Memorial principle Carolyn Cook said both students signed responsibility agreements fro graduation, which spell out what students are to wear. The agreement states that boys must wear socks, a shirt with collar, tie, and slacks. Hobbs said he thought his uniform would be acceptable. "I thought I was wearing what was in the dress code. They were going for a respectable look under the gown. I had a respectable look under the gown." Hobbs said.
Superintendent Fred Bechtold said Memorial's decision was about enforcing a dress code. "We didn't mean any disrepect to the uniform. The Military is an honorable undertaking, but we have a uniform too for about an hour and a half at graduation.
Several area Marines were angered by Memorial's decision to single out the students because of their uniform. "In the Marines, dress blues are a very dressy uniform. It's about as dressy as you can get " said Sgt Jared Cobb, an Elkhart recruiter with the US Marine Corps. "The schools opinion should be changed. The military should be as highly regarded as any other group at graduation. These young men have chosen this career so that everyone else in that auditorium could be free. Thats an important job and alot of responsibility," Cobb said.
Hobbs and Pvt Josh Beam entered the Joyce Center at the University of Notre Dame for graduation. Neither expected a problem. Hobbs said he was pulled aside by school officials and given a choice on his attire. "They said I either had to take off my Jacket and put on a shirt and tie or put a tie on my dress blues". Hobbs said he told the school officials that neither one would be possible because military Personnel can neither wear an incomplete uniform or add anything that is not part of the uniform. 'I told him several times that I was going to wear the cap and gown" he said. It was at that time Hobbs and Beam were asked to leave and were escorted out of the Joyce center. 

I hope you bro's and sisters don't mind me emailing you this. I just had to share it....
My fax will be busy today and I hope if you have one yours is also......

Semper Fidelis
Dane Brown

June 13, 2001

Mrs. Kathleen Phillips contacted my office concerning the incident at Elkhart Memorial High School involving the two Marines who were not permitted to participate in the high schoolıs commencement ceremony on June 5, 2001. Mrs. Phillips suggested that I prepare a statement for e-mail purposes and get same out to you. That statement follows.

Elkhart Memorial High School commencement ceremonies were conducted at the University of Notre Dameıs Joyce Athletic and Convocation Center on Tuesday, June 5, 2001.

Two mid-year graduates who had completed basic training at San Diego appeared at commencement that evening wanting to wear Marine dress uniforms instead of academic gown and mortar board as specified in the schoolıs graduation rules. The students were in dress blues and arrived just prior to the start of the procession, some 15-20 minutes after seniors were supposed to assemble.

A vice-principal was called away from the official platform party to deal with the issue.

1. The Marines previously had signed agreements that they would abide by the schoolıs dress requirements for commencement. Their parents co-signed those agreements.

2. The Marines had both been present at the graduation rehearsal event at which the rules were explained and proper attire was modeled. They raised no concerns on that occasion or at any other time prior to the evening of June 5th, regarding dress requirements.

3. The vice-principal individual states that he did not tell the Marines that the uniform needed to be removed or modified; only that the mortar board and gown needed to be worn or they could not participate in the ceremony.

It has been alleged by members of the Marinesı family that they were escorted from the building. School officials flatly deny this as does the University of Notre Dame ushering department.

Indiana Marine officials Major William Harrop, in company with Sgt. Major Tom Reinig and Sgt. Jared Cobb, told the Elkhart Community Schoolsı Board of School Trustees at its meeting of June 12, 2001, that no violation was committed by the school and that there is no regulation prohibiting wearing the cap and gown over the uniform for commencement purposes.

Both Marines received their diplomas. All Memorial High School diplomas are mailed to graduates following the ceremony.

One final point. The school system regrets very much the impression held by many people that the school acted purposely to demean the uniform and the service and sacrifice which it represents. The Elkhart Community Schools and staff fully cooperate with all local recruiting and commemoration activities that are U.S. military related. Veterans Day education and commemoration exercises are hosted by schools within the system. The school system will continue to remind its students of the debt owed the veterans and their families and the respect that should be accorded active military personnel.


Frederick B. Bechtold

Superintendent of Schools