AUGUSTA — Tyler Bridgham was hoping to wear his Army National Guard sash when he marches with his fellow classmates at graduation on Sunday.

He recently found out he can’t, however, because Cony High School doesn’t allow it.

The principal said the school doesn’t allow any sashes, cords or other honors to be worn from organizations outside of the school.

Bridgham, 17, said he’s disappointed he and his three other friends also in the military won’t be able to wear their sashes at the ceremony.

“It’s not just about me,” he said. “It’s about showing everyone that we’re willing to do something that not everyone is willing to do.”

Cony Principal Kim Silsby said it’s the school’s policy and tradition to allow students to wear sashes and other adornments only if they are related to the school.


“We didn’t want to get in the position of deciding which things are appropriate and which things are not,” Silsby said. “We were either going to say yes to everything or no to everything.”

Bridgham, who is headed to basic training at Fort Benning in July, said he joined the Guard because he eventually wants to be a state trooper.

His mother, Jennifer Bridgham, contacted Superintendent James Anastasio and school board members to ask why her son couldn’t wear the sash.

She said some school board members supported her efforts to try to allow Tyler to wear his sash, and she said she’s hoping the superintendent changes his mind.

“For me, it just seems ridiculous,” Jennifer Bridgham said. “I’m proud of my son, and I’m sure the community is proud of my son and the other kids who have made that commitment.”

Anastasio didn’t respond to requests for comment.


Silsby said students and parents or guardians sign a contract outlining the required dress code, expectations and commitments needed in order for the students to march.

The contract prohibits students from decorating caps, but it doesn’t specify that students can’t wear adornments from outside organizations.

Silsby said that’s explained to the students when the contract is presented.

The contract actually encourages students to wear award medals, pins and cords over their gowns.

Tyler Bridgham said his recruiter hasn’t given him the sash because the superintendent told her it wouldn’t be allowed.

Peter Rogers, spokesman for the Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management, said students should be issued their sashes regardless, but it’s up to the schools whether students are allowed to wear them with their caps and gowns.


The issue isn’t a new battle.

Two students in Pennsylvania made headlines in 2011 when they refused to march after being told they couldn’t wear their U.S. Army sashes.

A New Hampshire high school senior was told she couldn’t wear her National Guard sash at graduation this year before the school reversed its decision last week, according to an article from the New Hampshire Union Leader.

Mark Tinkham, principal of Hall-Dale High School, in Farmingdale, said his school allows students to wear sashes, cords or other adornments from any legitimate organization.

He said a student graduating this year is planning to wear her National Guard sash, and another student is wearing a cord from Capital Area Technical Center.

“Certainly it’s judgment,” Tinkham said. “It has to obviously be an organization that meets our standards, and certainly the National Guard would. Same for CATC.”

Silsby said the school has received other requests to wear adornments from other organizations, including a student who wanted to wear a cord from an honor society not affiliated with the school.

“We’ve said no to the requests even though we support their achievements,” she said. “We’ve just been very consistent about that.”

Paul Koenig — 621-5663
[email protected]

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