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America at Large

Beyond the Cap and Gown
By Ricky Allen
Jun 1, 2005 - 6:50:00 AM

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I can remember that day like it was yesterday. It usually hits me every year around this time? The day I realized I couldn't march in my High School Graduation.

It was a few days prior to that. My mother was still teaching, and I had stayed home to be with my siblings when my cousin calls mom and tells her that I forgot to come to the rehearsal, so they weren't going to let me march in the graduation.

That's right? I missed one rehearsal, and got 18 years worth of work taken from me. That was supposed to be a special day for me, my family, my friends. Being the first of six to graduate, it held a special meaning of course. However, that was all over now. And the sad thing about it. I was the only person in hundreds of people that didn't march. The drug dealers marched, troublemakers marched, and here was this young kid who had never given anyone any trouble, but who made the mistake of forgetting a rehearsal, and no one could cut him any slack.

Still in all, I learned a valuable lesson. There are some times in this life when you have to realize that the only person who will ever recognize your accomplishments is you. From that point on, I took that to heart. Back to the story.

As Graduation approached, the community was outraged, and many wanted us to sue. However, falling back on my studies of King on non-violence, I let it pass by. I just wanted to be away from that school once and for all ... no ties.

When graduation came, I still got up, looked at my family, and told them we were going. That day was my greatest stand in my life. I walked onto the school grounds, and watched as teachers and officials couldn't look me in the eye. Others watched in disbelief, not understanding why I had come at all.

To the class of 2005, (now that I can actually talk about this), cherish the moment, because some didn't get the opportunity.  In the later years my brother, in my defense, refused to march as well. It would take my younger sister (and the pleas from the community) to break the streak and finally, put it behind us.

In this life, there are many things that will challenge you, things that will define who you are, what you will be, and where you will be in life. However, there is one word that comes to my mind when I think of that day. Courage. If there was anything that I could pass onto a group of kids who witnessed a war and 9/11 during their high school years, it is courage. Never be afraid to take the leap into the unknown. Use 100 percent of your brain. Don't be that person who still hangs around the school grounds the following school year because you haven't made up your mind on what you will do with your life. Those people stay in circles - a continuous circle around the high school parking lot, wondering where the time went.

After 13 countries, five medals, two kids and a wife, and 10 years to think about it ... that's all I do ... think about it ... all has been forgiven. One day I'll see my children march, and with that, a chapter in my life will be complete. Even though now it's a small chapter, it's one I'll get a chance to read, along with my parents.

Courage is what will take you to success, perseverance is what will keep you there.

From the Email Bin:

Michael from Michigan writes:

"The whole mechanics of the way things are being done is wrong concerning the middle east war. All you have to do is read the history of that area. It would take a book to give the the answer to my statement. Just think about the whole issue. Democracy in iraq? peace in Iraq? Oil? Control? The whole thing is going to put our counrty in a very weak position, to the degree of people becoming active - or +.? "

My reply: I wouldn't say it was wrong. Guaranteed, there are many who feel we started a war without a plan for peace and maybe that's fair, But now, with so many soldiers being killed, we're beyond what's right or wrong, but what is just. What I mean by that, we now have to fix Iraq. To leave now is to wonder why so many had to die before that decision could be made. True, you sign up for the military to die for your country, but there has to be some kind of principle in the loss of life.  And the Middle East, throughout history, has had its issues, I agree. However, somewhere someone has to make a stand for what is right. If that's us, democracy, or just basic freedom, then I say be a Patriot. And yes, I've had relatives over there, and they have killed many insurgents. Death is not fun, no matter what the video games show.

I am not bitter, are u interested?

Email me at and tell me what you think I'll be sure to respond to you in my next column. Remember: Name, place of residence ... so readers can see where replies are coming from. Good or bad, I welcome it all.

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