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Army Recruit Pans Ban of Military Sash at High School Graduations

Graduation cap on a book next to a degree.

CENTRAL KITSAP -- Michael Miglio has dreamed of joining the military since he was 6 years old.

Miglio, 19, is bound for boot camp Aug. 1 in South Carolina. He and stepdad Ray Milhomme are miffed Miglio wasn't allowed to wear a sash signifying his status as an Army recruit to Saturday's Central Kitsap High School graduation.

"It was kind of disappointing and a little frustrating," Miglio said.

Tom Conning, a spokesman for the Seattle Army Recruiting Battalion, believes this is the first year the Army has distributed the black-and-gold sashes to recognize new recruits.

CK School District officials nixed the new attire at all three graduation ceremonies, beginning with Klahowya Secondary School's Thursday. Olympic High School's graduation was Friday.

Miglio and at least one other future soldier received their sashes from Principal Steve Coons after Saturday's ceremony at Central Kitsap High but were not allowed to wear them during graduation or in the class picture.

"We asked students to limit celebratory attire to their high school accomplishments," district spokesman David Beil said. "Traditionally, we viewed commencement as an event to reflect on students' high school lives. We celebrate what our students have achieved so far."

Students' postsecondary plans are recognized at senior night, Beil said.

"We honor and respect our military families and are proud of our students who will serve our country," Beil said. "We are proud of the many paths our graduates will take."

According to Conning, Central Kitsap and Orting High School are the only district and school to ban the Army sashes at graduation within the battalion's coverage area, which includes Washington, Alaska and the Idaho panhandle. A Maine high school senior opted out of his graduation ceremony Sunday after being told he couldn't wear the Army sash over his gown, the Portland Press Herald reported.

Milhomme, an Army vet, thinks Central Kitsap's stance on the sashes is just plain "wrong." He made a scathing post Sunday on Facebook, and it has been widely shared. The district allows leis made of flowers, money and candy, he said, but not "this super classy Army sash given to him by his recruiter."

In North Kitsap School District, the one student at North Kitsap High School who is Army-bound was allowed to wear the sash at graduation Friday. The district had no issue with the sash, spokeswoman Jenn Markaryan said.

Bremerton and Bainbridge Island school districts did not clarify their policies by the Kitsap Sun's deadline.

South Kitsap High School's graduation is set for Tuesday. Principal Jerry Holsten on Monday was unaware of the flap over the Army sash. He expects the school will adhere to its limited list of approved regalia: a stole for ASB officers, a white chord for national honor students, gold chord for students with high GPAs, and silver-and-white chord for academic achievement in each department, including Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps.

"We're not pushing back against any school decision, because that's their decision and they have policies they must follow," said Conning, the Army's spokesman. "The main pushback we've seen is from parents, families and future soldiers who felt like it was wrong, and they wanted their son or daughter to have that recognition."

Beil said the district, which serves several military installations, has a good relationship with recruiters. But high school principals had little heads up the sashes would be given to the students. In light of complaints the district has fielded, the policy will be revisited.

"We are sorry that our graduation practices have upset any of our students or families," Beil said. "This was a new request, and all our high schools responded the same way. Because of the family's concerns, we are reviewing this practice and will have a dialogue with our military community."

Miglio would like to see the honor extended to recruits in all branches of the military. Local representatives of the Navy, Army National Guard and Marine Corps said they do not award sashes to recruits at this time.

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