Don’t flame me, bros.

Ugh that this has become national news, but it has. Front page of

“Once a Marine, always a Marine” apparently doesn’t apply at a Pennsylvania high school where a 17-year-old graduate has been told she cannot wear her uniform when she receives her diploma.

Lindsay Starr told KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh she wanted to wear her dress blues during Friday’s graduation ceremony at North Allegheny High School in Pittsburgh, but that school officials denied her request, citing the requirement of wearing only the traditional cap and gown.

“I’m just trying to show pride in what I belong to now,” she told the station. “I belong to the United States Marine Corps as a 17-year-old. Like, c’mon, now.”

Everything I am about to write following the forthcoming colon is written under the assumption that she is allowed to wear her dress blues UNDER her cap and gown.

If she is prohibited from wearing her dress blues UNDER her cap and gown, that’s just a stupid rule and PBTHH! to North Allegheny High School and I fart in your general direction. Toot.

Here comes the colon: <—– COLON!

I have never been in the military, but it seems to me that everything I’ve ever learned about being in the military includes a lot of this — RULE FOLLOWING.

You don’t have to like the rules. But you have to FOLLOW the rules.

At least that’s what the movies would lead me to believe and everything in the movies is real, right? Someday my own personal Falcore will come and we’ll go a-flying, right?

Something like God, country, corp, and rules, right?

Wasn’t that in A Few Good Men?

I’m teasing of course. Making light of a serious thing. I’ve been known to do that. It doesn’t mean I don’t take the issue seriously.

My point is that a marine of all people should understand that rules are rules and if they bend the rules for her, then they’ll be forever receiving requests for not only military uniforms, but volunteer firefighting uniforms, and Eagle Scout uniforms, and before you know it, colorguard wants to wear colorguard uniforms and the Trekkies really want to show up in THEIR dress blues. Or reds. Or whatever the heck Trekkies wear when they’re fighting for the … um … galaxy? I need to brush up on my nerd. Or is it geek? Dork?

I don’t think the school district should bend the rules. I think Lindsay should show up in her dress blues and throw a cap and gown on and then afterwards proudly take pictures in those dress blues.

She’s going to be a marine. She’s going to hopefully spend her whole life getting pats on the back from people like me who understand that she’s making a sacrifice for me and you and you and your children. Maybe this is one time to be one of the crowd. To say, “I’m one of you, but underneath this cap and gown, I’m a little bit more. But as a marine, I understand that the rules have to be followed.”

Pride doesn’t always have to be shouted. Sometimes, it can be heard without you even saying a word.

That’s my opinion.

What do you guys think?


  1. Susan Helene Gottfried
    June 9, 2011 5:16 pm

    You’re assuming the Marines don’t have a rule that nothing is allowed to be worn OVER the blues. From what I know of the Marines, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if they do.

    I get your point, and where the school is coming from. I totally do. You can’t close floodgates.

    Right now, I’m darn glad I am not a school administrator.

  2. Pam
    June 9, 2011 5:26 pm

    I think the school is justified in their decision, so long as everyone in the graduating class has to follow the same rule. If the Star Quarterback with a scholarship to Some Good University (SGU) wants to wear his new uniform and pads, should be he able to? You know, to show pride to what he belongs to now? OF COURSE NOT! And to treat her differently because the thing that she wants to wear happens to be an armed services uniform would be supremely unjust and, frankly, distracting to the other hundreds of students who sit surrounding her in their matching caps and gowns. What happened to the idea of graduating as a class? Or that idea that graduation is a ceremony closing the chapter on high school, not a celebration of all the futures that the students will have.

  3. gunnlino
    June 9, 2011 5:43 pm

    Marty Griffin , KDAK TV News ( you have to say that in a hurried , breathless manner , it sounds more important and dramatic ) just did a segment ( 5:30 PM ) that said the school district has come under so much pressure that it is reconsidering .
    I’m with most others in saying wear your uniform under the gown and show it off after the ceremony .
    Semper Fi do or die !

  4. rickh
    June 9, 2011 5:55 pm

    Wearing a football uniform, an Eagle Scout uniform or a Trekkie outfit to graduation is nowhere near the same thing. This girl finished her studies early, then went through boot camp and is now a proud Marine. IMHO she should be able to wear her blues with pride. I get the rule thing but it’s a stupid PC rule that ends up benefitting no one.

  5. Clair
    June 9, 2011 6:01 pm

    I read the story a little while ago, and the first thing that popped into my head was” can she wear the uni UNDER her cap and gown? But then I recall my oldest graduating 2 years aog, and the girls had to wear WHITE under their gowns (dont recall what the boys had to wear..) because the girls gowns were gold (the boys wore burgundy, the other school color) and I guess they did not want anything seen under the lighter color (like black showing thru the gold material or whatever). Who knows. I thought it was stupid myself, but tortured myself to find a white dress for my daughter. Anyway…point being, is there a rule about what can be worn underneath the cap and gown? If not…then wear the dress blues underneath. Take photos before/after in your dress blues. Party in them. Whatever! It’s not a big deal. I understand being proud of your service, and good for her that she is doing it. But how about respecting authority, something I think the Marines and all military branches are big on, and just wearing the cap and gown for a couple hours? Would it hurt? If an exception is made for her, where would the exceptions end?? Everyone would want an exception for this reason or that and it will become a circus.

  6. YinzerInExile
    June 9, 2011 6:22 pm

    So she finished her studies early and has done something. Where she finished her studies, did they not teach irony? Because kvetching that you can’t be the most precious panda and wear your uniform, when uniforms exist largely to mitigate individuality, is sort of . . . ironic. She wants to stand out by wearing the thing that partially exists to prevent people from standing out.

    Graduation is very much a communal event. You wear the cap and gown because you’re part of a larger class. So my message to Precious Marine Corps Panda is something I feel I’ll be repeating (a lot), in alternation with “Get off my lawn!”: sometimes, IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU.

    And also: Porbably your classmates have done things they’re proud of, too. Just FYI.

  7. Jaime
    June 9, 2011 6:24 pm

    If the rule is that you have to wear a cap and gown, then you have to wear the cap and gown. Schools create dress codes for a reason. There’s a pagentry to the traditional cap and gown. Having this student wear the cap and gown doesn’t diminish her But everyone believes that rules are negotiable today and that the rules shouldn’t have to apply to them.

  8. YinzerInExile
    June 9, 2011 6:26 pm

    @rickh — so then you would have no problem with every graduating class wearing something which is not a cap and gown but which does represent something that they, too, are proud of? Because that’s the effect that eliminating this “stupid PC rule” would have. I’m guessing you wouldn’t want that (I could be wrong), and I’m basing that on the fact that you think that her accomplishment/decision is better (more worthy) than the accomolishments/decisions of other students. To which I say: who in Hades are you to decide that a marine gets to be more proud of their decision/accomplishment than does an Eagle Scout???

  9. Leenyburgh
    June 9, 2011 6:32 pm

    I work for NA and can assure you she is allowed to wear her uniform under her cap and gown. Rules are rules. Everyone here loves American and has dedicated their lives to teaching America’s children. This is lost to Fox “News.”

  10. Leenyburgh
    June 9, 2011 6:33 pm

    Sorry… in a rush… America.

  11. Leenyburgh
    June 9, 2011 6:36 pm

    Yinzerinexile: Very well said.

  12. Jonathan Conrad
    June 9, 2011 6:42 pm

    I am in the Army and you are not allowed to wear something over your dress uniform. That would be considered being out of uniform. The Marine girl should just do what everyone else does and wear the cap and gown and be happy.

  13. Ex-Pat Pittsburgh Girl
    June 9, 2011 6:47 pm

    I asked my uncle who is a Marine and served three tours in Vietnam (BTW, he volunteered and wasn’t drafted). Even he said that if she is seeking to get an exception to a rule that lets her stand out and apart from the rest of her class, then maybe she wasn’t truly paying attention in boot camp. The Marines are all about being part of a team, hence, the Marine Corps.

  14. Pa-pop
    June 9, 2011 7:00 pm

    @Ex-Pat: Your uncle rocks. This girl’s pride is a little misplaced, but I think that’s the 17-year-old talking and not the woman she’ll be at the end of her hitch.

  15. tinyski
    June 9, 2011 7:07 pm

    At first I was hey why not then I read this:

    Maj. Carl Redding, a spokesman for the U.S. Marines, said the Marine Corps will not get involved in any decision made by local school administrators.

    “As Marines, we respect the rules and regulations of all levels of government,” Redding wrote in an email to

  16. Butcher's Dog
    June 9, 2011 7:15 pm

    OK, everybody, flame me. Because I think the rule, like so many school district one-size-fits-all rules, was created because nowhere was there an entire set of balls administratively. One size doesn’t have to fit all. Where do the exceptions stop? Right here. She finished school before all but perhaps a few of her classmates. Then she finished Marine boot camp, which most of her classmates won’t even attempt. The country is fighting on two different foreign fronts; we should be proud of this headlong rush to serve. We spend far too much emotion when they come back in body bags. Let’s show some discretion and let the uni happen (which the 6:00 report indicated is what is going to happen).

    A Trekkie wants to wear that shit? No. Sorry. Show up in it and I’ll pull your ass out of line. Eagle Scout? Closer, but still no. Active military because you graduated early? Absolutely and thank you for your service. But, since “balls” and “administrator” are never used in the same sentence unless they’re connected with “don’t have any” (with those two nouns in alphabetical order), I don’t expect it to happen.

    Flame on. I’ll check back after the Bucs go over .500.

  17. Me
    June 9, 2011 7:35 pm

    She’s just wearing the uniform, not a cap and gown. She said on the news that “she’s not trying to get attention.” Sorry, but I disagree. Look, I appreciate that she’s a Marine. Good for her. Soldiers certainly deserve our thanks and admiration. It is quite an accomplishment to be proud of to have completed school early and already made it through boot camp. But this is a “look at me, look at me” move.

  18. Jennifer Lyn
    June 9, 2011 7:41 pm

    What you said, exactly.

  19. YinzerInExile
    June 9, 2011 8:16 pm


    @ Butcher’s Dog — I’ll repeat the sentiment I earlier directed at rickh: why do you get to decide who’s allowed to be proud enough to break the rules? That Marine Corps Panda did what she did and is proud may be no greater personal accomplishment than the star quarterback who overcame a massive injury to finish at the top of his game. It’s all relative to the person.

    I just don’t know why you (and rickh, and some others) get to be the arbiters of someone else’s accomplishments; I don’t know why you’re the final say–or, really, why you’d even want to be the final say– in who gets to be most proud of themselves.

    Think of something in you’re life that you are really proud of–something you are so very, very pleased with. Now assume I think it’s considerably less awesome an achievement than what Joe Schmoe has done. Not only do I think your pride-inducing thing is substandard, but as the Ultimate Distributor of Stars I also think that Joe Schmoe, specifically, gets to wear a giant gold star on his forehead (imagine also a world where this is desirable, rather than horrifically embarassing or Seussian) but you . . . you get jack. And not even Jack Wilson. Just . . jack. Because that thing that you did that you are so very, super proud of is very meh in the Personal Book of The Ultimate Distributor of Stars and so eff you and all your accomplishments. I think they’re silly.

    Same damn thing.

  20. Dash
    June 9, 2011 9:21 pm

    I’m a soldier in the U.S. Army, and have been in the military for 19 years. I am even more proud of wearing my uniform now than I was 19 years ago when I graduated from basic training, and at the time I didn’t think that was possible.
    I understand her sentiment, and I greatly appreciate her service in the Marine Corps, but she needs to realize that there is a time and place for everything… Even for wearing the uniform.
    Graduation is a time to stand together as one with your whole class, not a time to say, “look at what I’ve done”
    You should be proud of your uniform, proud of your accomplishment of graduating from the hardest boot camp in the military, of being a Marine, but graduation is a time to be proud of your accomplishent of completing your high school graduation.
    You will have the rest of your life to wear your uniform and be proud of being a Marine. Take the one day to be proud to be,a High School graduate as well.

  21. Different Brian
    June 9, 2011 9:22 pm

    It should work something like this. Everyone wears the gown. If you want an exemption, please request one from the office. The application process: does your alternate wardrobe choice represent your decision to put your life on the line in honor of everyone in your community?

    Police, fire, military – honor these people now while they’re around, because they don’t usually get to experience the honor after they’re gone. Its easy to play relativism when you’re the one who gets to come home safely every day.

    That said – if (or since) some gutless administrator still doesn’t allow it – its a valuable lesson for the Marine to learn. … That, and trying to avoid “Like, cmon now.”

  22. Ex-Pat Pittsburgh Girl
    June 9, 2011 9:38 pm

    @Dash — well said and THANK YOU for your service!

  23. Dash
    June 9, 2011 9:39 pm

    It’s funny that of the folks who’ve posted in this thread that they are military, as well as all the soldiers I work with who I got a chance to talk to about this, not a one has said she should wear the uniform at graduation.

  24. YinzerInExile
    June 9, 2011 9:44 pm

    @ Dash — amen.

  25. Bitter
    June 9, 2011 10:23 pm


  26. Dan (Not Onarato)
    June 9, 2011 11:08 pm

    @ Dash…agreed. And thank all of the military for their service and to Ms. Starr for her future service.

    Can she just go cap and gown as everyone else and then put USMC on the top of her cap to make a “statement”?

    Ginny…I absolutely love your quote “Pride doesn’t always have to be shouted. Sometimes, it can be heard without you even saying a word.”

    And that, my friends, IS church!

  27. Liz
    June 10, 2011 12:25 am

    I wonder if she has asked her commanding officers about this. Because, while the Major quoted there says they will not get involved, his statement and the comments from military here lead me to believe they would probably advise her to wear the cap and gown.

  28. bucdaddy
    June 10, 2011 2:03 am

    When did the Marines start accepting 17-year-olds? And would I be right in guessing she was closer to 16 when she started boot camp?

    I’m not complaining, I’m just thinking of all those people who had to lie to join the service because they were under 18. Isn’t there some age limit?

  29. Tony
    June 10, 2011 5:38 am

    KDKA news is reporting that the student had a heart to heart discussion with her recruiter and was told to wear her cap and gown instead of her dress blues.

  30. Military Wife
    June 10, 2011 6:47 am

    I am married to a solider and proud of it and that being said, I feel she should wear her cap and gown to graduation. If she wears her dress blues, she would outshine the other kids who are graduating and they worked just as hard as she did to graduate. Why should she stand out more than anybody else in the graduating class?

    As for wearing it under her cap and gown, that would be suitable as long as the marines permit it.

    Either way, congratulations to the entire graduating 2011 graduating class of North Allegheny!

  31. Silica
    June 10, 2011 7:09 am

    I am definitely glad that Ms. Starr is so proud of being a Marine; however, I will chime in and say that her high school graduation ceremony is a time for her to celebrate her academic accomplishments – hence the use of academic regalia, which has its own fine tradition that goes back hundreds and hundreds of years (and yes, didn’t use to apply to high school…or preschool…but that’s another issue.)

  32. steeler_tom
    June 10, 2011 7:38 am

    I too am a former military member. (21 years active duty) and I still work for the DoD. I see both sides of the issue. I’d let her wear it, right under her cap & gown. She can show her Marine pride before and after the ceremony. Why oh why does this have to even be an issue?? Dear Lord!

  33. red pen mama
    June 10, 2011 8:21 am

    Yeah, I’m pretty much with the “wear the cap and gown” crowd and Ginny on this one. I think it’s awesome that she has chosen to go into the armed services, and has gone through boot camp, but for now, she should take her place with her classmates. Plenty of time for dress blues in more appropriate settings.

  34. Paul
    June 10, 2011 8:23 am

    I’m with you but I am certain that the district will cave and let her wear it.

    God forbid anyone even suggest anything that might even be construed (wrongly I might add) by 1% or the people as against the military.


  35. Bulldog
    June 10, 2011 8:32 am

    Dash – absolutely correct. I served 25 years in the Navy and there wasn’t a single day I wasn’t proud to wear the uniform, and in fact, I still do on appropriate occasions such as a former shipmate’s retirement or promotion ceremony.

    I also graduated from college 11 years ago at a school that had a VERY large percentage of armed forces members from every branch. Without exception, we all wore the cap-n-gown because for that occasion, it was the proper “Uniform of the Day” (in Navy-speak). Sure there were some folks who donned thier uniform UNDER their gowns as Ginny suggested, but the point of the day as others have noted, is to celebrate ACADEMIC achievement and nothing else.

    Props to this young Marine for being proud, but she also needs to realize what high school graduation is all about.

  36. Bulldog
    June 10, 2011 8:37 am

    As to the question of age, anyone who is 17 years old may enlist if they have the signature of a parent or guardian. To my knowledge, no 16 year olds are permitted to sign-up, even on an “delayed-entry” program.

    The reason being is simple, a 17 year cannot legally sign a contract and be bound to the agreement(even though the military, or at least the Navy has always claimed the enlistment documents are not contracts, federal law says they are).

  37. Steverino
    June 10, 2011 8:46 am

    I think KDKA saw some ratings gold for television and radio yesterday because they ran with it ad nauseum. It’s an easy topic to whip up some righteous indignation over, but in the end, as seen on this board, common sense prevails.

    Marty Griffin: Investigative Reporter was hilarious, HILARIOUS, yesterday as he gnashed teeth and railed over the perceived indignities afflicting this poor girl for not being able to wear her uniform. They guy on after him kept it going into the afternoon. Hey, they each have 15 hours a week they have to fill. This was as good as topic as any to generate phone calls to KDKA between the commercial breaks.

  38. Pingback: That's Church » Update to the Marine debate

  39. Butcher's Dog
    June 10, 2011 10:35 am

    As noted above, the Corps talked her into cap and gown.

    @YinzerinExile: it’s not me, per se, making the decisions. My rant was mostly that school administrators, who are paid to make decisions (albeit within a structured framework) don’t have the guts to do so. They pass one-size-fits-all rules to avoid having to make decisions. And since one size never fits all, we have some groups and individuals penalized. Locally I’m thinking of chaperone rules for groups taking trips.

    I’ll throw helicopter parents under this bus as well, because they can’t take “no” for an answer. Principal said no (however unlikely that might be)? I’ll go to the superintendent. Superintendent said no? I’ll go to the school board. School board said no (only in my wildest and wettest dreams, perhaps)? I’ll sue. And on and on and on. Personally, I think Deal With It, People should be standard operating procedure. But only if the “It” is a decision made upon careful consideration of the entire situation.

    Put all this near the top of the list of reasons why I’m glad I’m retired after 37 years in the public schools. Now let’s get on with getting the Bucs over .500.

  40. bucdaddy
    June 10, 2011 10:40 am

    Thanks, Bulldog.

  41. Nancy
    June 10, 2011 11:02 am

    I haven’t read the other comments yet, but this is pretty much what I said to my husband last night when we were talking about this. It’s a tough one, but if you make an exception, then where do you draw the line? I agree with you.

  42. Kathy
    June 10, 2011 12:08 pm

    As prior military, Miss Lindsay has missed the boat on what it means to be in the military. Yes, you are right Ginny. Learn to follow the rules.

    Be proud, but don’t flaunt it. And don’t think you’re so special that you don’t have to follow the rules.

    oh, and graduation is the last time she gets to be a part of that team (high school). perhaps she ought to enjoy the final chapter of that part of her life instead of leaving it half finished to start the next part of her life.

    I also suspect that there will come a time when she’ll wish she could wear something other than her uniform. Having attended a few military balls, I know that sometimes it wasn’t really that fun to wear f-ugly dress uniforms while the other women were in nice dresses that showed off their figures. Because some times it’s nice to be a girl.

    So, Lindsay – be a high schooler, then go be a Marine.

  43. MsCarolineFB
    June 10, 2011 2:18 pm

    In reading all these comments I notice the most ardent & vocal supporters of her ability to wear her dress blues are not people who have served in the military.

    Thank you to all current and former military personnel for your service and for your honest opinions. :D