Redlands senior frustrated he can't wear U.S. Army stole to graduation

For Elias Velazquez, his U.S. Army stole represents a new beginning. In other words, a commencement.

"It means something really honorable to me. It's a whole new life transition to me," Velazquez said. 

However, it will be absent from his graduation Friday and is something that frustrated his father, who took to social media to post about it.

"We're simply trying to open some community dialogue and get people to understand some rules are okay to change," said Joe, Velezquez's father.

The high school senior decided to enlist in the U.S. Army after graduating from Redlands High School. However, the school has a long standing policy of no adornments on graduation gowns, with the exception of the California Scholarship Federation chords and sashes.

It's a policy that Velezquez and his father think should change.

"It's kind of defeating the purpose of achieving that greatness," Joe said. "We push our kids to strive and try to be better and do the best they can and then we tell them at their grad ceremony, 'We need you all to be the same because we don't want to hurt anyone else's feelings.'"

In a phone conversation with FOX 11, the Redlands School District said the rules are in place to promote equity and fairness. They also added, "We are totally supportive of our men and women in the military. This has nothing to do with a lack of our support."

Velezquez said as much as he wishes he could wear the stole, in true military fashion, he will comply with the rules.

"I'm not one to not really follow the rules, especially if it involves the military. I'm going to be committed to following every order they give me," he said.

The school added students can wear sashes before or after the ceremony for pictures, or during other graduation events like the Baccalaureate and senior awards night.

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