Written June 9, 2004     

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© 2016 Bob Lonsberry


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LeRoy Hunt and Josh Harmon didn’t get their diplomas the other day.

Oh, they put in their 13 years of public education, and they completed their course of study, and they got through high school.

But they didn’t get their diplomas.

Because they wore their uniforms.

Their Army uniforms.

Let me tell you the story.

It was last week at the Layton High School Class of 2004 graduation ceremony in Ogden, Utah.

Apparently, at Layton they have rules, and they are very particular about their rules. And the rule is that at graduation you may wear only the official blue cap and gown. No corsages, no flowers behind your ear, no garlands, no smiley faces on your mortarboard, no nothing but the blue cap and gown.

I think that’s because of the Polynesians.

Rather, I think that’s because of people’s discomfort with the Polynesians.

See, it is the custom sometimes for Utah’s Samoans and Tongans to get a little loud at high school graduations. When their son or daughter walks across the stage it’s a big deal, it is a happy, joyous time and there are hoots and hollers aplenty.

There are also plenty of leis. Those are those flower necklaces they wear in Hawaii. In the past, Polynesian graduates have been generously decked in leis.

And that bothered people.

Dull, puckery people.

So they outlawed the leis. No more flowers. But they couldn’t say it that way, not without facing a federal civil rights suit. So they outlawed everything. Everything except the plain blue robe. No grama’s broach, no American flag pin, no boutonniere.

Which is where LeRoy Hunt and Josh Harmon come in.

They’ve got an interesting extra-curricular activity – they’re soldiers. In a state that routinely has a higher percentage of its National Guardsmen deployed in the war on terror than any other, LeRoy and Josh are soldiers.

And entitled to wear the uniform of the United States Army.

Which they did.

At their graduation last week, underneath their robes, they wore their Army uniforms. And then, as they handed their name card to be read and walked across the stage to take their diplomas, they each in their turn removed the gown and showed the uniform.

How did the crowd react?

With thunderous applause.

How did the administration react?

By withholding the diplomas. They will be assigned community service by the administration, and then maybe they will be given their diplomas and be officially certified as graduates.

Rules are rules are rules, the sheep said, and apparently there are some places in America where the uniform of the United States is not welcome.

Which is a crock.

The young men were right, the administration was wrong, and that’s all there is to it. And all the nonsense in the world about obeying the rules and maintaining order isn’t going to change that.

Somebody needs to talk to these administrators and remind them what country they live in. And if that doesn’t work, then somebody needs to remind them who pays the bills and who they work for. The school – and its graduations – don’t belong to the administrators. They belong to the taxpayers, and they exist for the students. And that is never more true than on graduation day.

By sucking the life out of graduation, the Layton administration is imposing its wishes on the graduates and their families. Its attitudes and policies in this regard are rude and arrogant at best and racist at worst.

And this punishment of Josh and LeRoy is an idiotic consequence of a wrong-headed policy.

Because there is nowhere the uniform of the United States Army isn’t welcome. A young man or woman who has completed basic training and taken an oath of enlistment or commissioning and who has earned the right to wear the insignia “U.S.” should be welcome in uniform anywhere in this country.

Especially at a high school graduation.

When Americans the age of these graduates are fighting and dying for our country, for a school to ban the uniform they wear is almost treasonous. It is a phenomenal act of ingratitude.

And it’s inconceivable to think that – as we celebrate the 60th anniversary of D-Day – a young man would have received this same treatment during World War II.

This sounds a lot more like how things were during Vietnam.

And I’d thought we’d decided not to remake the mistakes of Vietnam.

- by Bob Lonsberry © 2004

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