For a young man named Jacob Dalton Stanley, Tuesday of July 2020 would have been like any other ordinary, and yet so very personal, day in his life: that of his high school graduation ceremony with the classmates, parents, and school staff of Crown Point High School all attending and sharing the glory together.

However, Jacob Dalton Stanley is no ordinary young man, nor would his graduation day prove to be any more ordinary, given both his personal situation and the social realities affecting us all. The Crown Point High School senior had just finished his Marine Corps boot camp training the Friday before, and would be flown in in order to participate in his high school graduation ceremony the Tuesday of the very week after.

However, Jacob was informed by the high school principal Chip Pettit that the school enforces a strict dress code policy by which students who fail to wear the standard cap and gown on their graduation day are not permitted to participate. Unfortunately, Jacob did not heed the warning from his principal and as a result was turned away without his name being called as is usually done during the graduation ceremony for attending in his Marine Corps formal attire, although he was able to participate in rehearsals that took place beforehand.

The school principal maintains that the dress code policy is under no circumstances intended to disrespect the nation’s military institutions or service members, but is rather meant to promote unity and pride among the students while nonetheless allowing room for individual distinctions in the form of stoles and chords indicative of particular academic and other achievements. Major Clark Carpenter on behalf of the Marine Corps did not take a particular position in the matter and deferred to the school in regards to its own right to enforce its own particular dress code as it sees fit.

A more passionate reaction came not from authority figures but from Jacob’s very own classmates, who felt that he had the right to showcase his achievements as other students had been able to, as it was to be done so in a way that was not disruptive. Adding to the situation is the reality of COVID-19 or corona virus which in the year 2020 has so profoundly affected how people would normally gather in public, with many graduation ceremonies done online or canceled altogether to prevent any further spread of the disease. These social changes have revealed deep social divisions and questions about what freedom really is in the United States.

In any case, however, the men and women of the United States Armed Forces, and particularly those of the Marine Corps and other such branches, are widely seen and appreciated as people who voluntarily sacrifice for the sake of the freedoms their fellow citizens enjoy, and high school graduations continue to be socially relevant milestones in the lives of American citizens of all walks of life.

For this reason, regardless of the particular outcome, Jacob Dalton Stanley is a remarkable young man, Crown Point High School is fair in enforcing guidelines for the sake of cohesion, and the United States military is a venerable institution for so many Americans, all tried and true pillars that stand steady and tall against pandemic and pandemonium, divisions and disagreements.