The Title Earned

“An Illinois high school has come under fire after officials refused to let a graduate, who is also a U.S. Marine, walk across the stage Thursday in her [dress blue uniform].

“Marine Corps Pvt. Megan Howerton technically finished up her studies at McHenry West High School early in order to start her career as a Marine, WLS-TV reported. But when she returned to the school to join her classmates at graduation, she wasn’t allowed to walk with her class.” (See a link to the full article below)

Readers who have read other blogs I’ve posted probably know how deep my respect is for our US servicemen and women. As the child of two veterans, and the wife of a veteran, I was not surprised when my sons both joined the military. Those who would choose to serve our nation in this capacity deserve our highest honor and respect. After all, how many other 18 year olds have to write their last will and testament?

When I read the story about Pvt. Megan Howerton, my respect for our military manifested itself in anger. Pvt. Howerton finished the requirements to graduate from high school earlier than most students do so that she could go to boot camp in Parris Island, SC, the first critical step toward becoming a US Marine.

For thirteen grueling weeks, drill sergeants train young men and women to become the best fighting force the world has ever known. These recruits, with very little sleep, do more calisthenics before 7 AM on Monday than the average American does in a month, and they do it every day. They must display a level of discipline that few other men or women will ever exhibit. They learn how to use a rifle, develop their marksmanship, are taught basic martial arts, and practice water survival skills. At each level, they must meet a high level of expectation and pass tests to prove they are qualified to be a US Marine.

So, not only did Pvt. Megan Howerton complete high school early, she also finished boot camp before her high school peers had graduated. Megan was most likely given a special leave from the Marine Corps in order to attend her high school graduation, to walk one more time with her fellow classmates. It was not to be.

I understand why high schools have dress code requirements. If they didn’t, it is highly probable that parents and grandparents attending the ceremony would be forced to witness saggy jeans and underwear crossing the stage.

I draw the line though when the stated purpose of the event is to lump all of the students in one big group. “Our graduates are celebrated as a whole and in similar attire,” stated a school official. Has it occurred to anyone else that this is the bigger problem?

While, traditionally, each student’s name is called as they receive their diploma, each of those students has had different accomplishments. They’ve taken their choice of classes (often based on future goals), they’ve completed their own assignments (in theory), they’ve passed their own tests, and they’ve developed their own skill set. Why would we desire to celebrate them as a whole?

Pvt. Howerton understood that in order to reach her goal of becoming a US Marine, she would first have to complete the requirements of her high school. So she did. Interestingly, she is not angry about not getting to cross the stage as a high school graduate. Marines are made of sterner stuff. She states in the article that she understood the dress code and still made the choice to wear her uniform, without the gown.

I understand that. My Marine would never dream of altering his uniform in any manner, even with a gown marking graduation. A Marine works way too hard to earn that uniform to hide it.


Dear Pvt. Howerton,

Congratulations on graduating as part of the Class of 2016. Completing the requirements of high school earlier than what was expected is a clear indicator of your willingness to do more than the typical student. Your achievements are commendable!

Congratulations on completing boot camp and becoming a US Marine! While a crossing a stage for high school graduation was taken away from you, your role as a US Marine can never be stripped away. You will always be a Marine. OOORAH!

While I will never know what it is like to be a Marine, I have some idea as to what an individual must accomplish in order to earn the title. In the eyes of this MoM*, you are aces! Thank you for your service to our country.


~Temerity Dowell

*Mother of a Marine

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