Future Marine Ignored At High School Graduation For What He’s Wearing

Full of pride during his graduation, Jacob waited for the principal to call his name in recognition of his accomplishments. Yet, when it was finally his turn, the principal took one look at him, paused, and moved on to the next name on the list. For some reason, Jacob had been overlooked at his own graduation. But when people found out why, they were up in arms.

Dreams Of The Military

Jacob Dalton Stanley was born and raised in Crown Point, Indiana, where he attended Crown Point High School. Unlike most teenage boys his age, he knew exactly what he wanted to do.

Since he was a young boy, he had dreams of joining the military and reaching the rank of sergeant. He wanted to be just like his father and first began expressing his interest in the armed forces when he was just ten years old.

Going To Boot Camp

Jacob knew that it would be a hard road to reach his dreams, so he made sure to keep his nose in the books at school to prepare himself for what was to come. Just after wrapping up most of his studies, Jacob went and applied to be a marine.

Scott Olson/Getty Images
Scott Olson/Getty Images

He then continued to do the necessary boot camp, making it home in Indiana just in time for his graduation.

He Was On His Way

Upon returning home from boot camp, he was created by his mother and girlfriend, who couldn’t have been more proud of him and all that he managed to accomplish. Of course, Jacob was sporting his Marine Corps uniform, with his mother almost breaking down in tears the first time she saw him in it.

Jacob had done what he had set out to do despite anyone who had ever doubted him. On top of it all, Jacob was about to graduate.

Graduation Time

Beaming with pride, Jacob, his mom Kathy, and his girlfriend all got into the car and headed to the graduation ceremony. Today was a big day for Jacob; he was beginning a new chapter in his life. He was more than ready to have that diploma in his hand finally.

After all, he knew that he deserved it after all of the hard work that he had put in over the years. Now, it was only a few hours away.

Respect From His Colleagues And Teachers

When Jacob arrived at school for the ceremony, he walked among the crowd saying hello to his friends and teachers, with some people even giving him a salute as he passed. The excitement in the air was palpable among the soon-to-be graduates, parents, and teachers.

Picture of graduation
Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images
Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

What Jacob had decided to wear had become a topic of discussion, and while it wasn’t intended to cause any problems, it turned out to be more trouble than anyone could have imagined.

The Graduation Begins

The principal of Crown Point High School was a man named Chip Pettit. The graduation began once he took the stage, picked up the microphone, and began the opening lines to the commencement speech.

Picture of graduates
Jeff Gritchen/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images
Jeff Gritchen/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images

Once he finished, it was time for the students’ names to be called. Pettit then began reading the names of the graduates down the list in alphabetical order.

Jacob Was Ready

By the time Principal Pettit reached the “S” names, Jacob could barely contain his excitement. To honor the occasion, Jacob had even prepared a small acceptance speech that he would share with the crowd.

He was up! There was a pause, and then his name wasn’t called. Pettit looked directly at Jacob, smirked, and then moved onto the next name, clearly skipping Jacob on purpose. Jacob couldn’t believe it; there had to be some kind of mistake.

He Didn’t Adhere To The Dress Code

Jacob looked down and realized the reason must be because he was wearing his Marine Corps uniform instead of the required dress code for the graduation. But Jacob wasn’t trying to be offensive or directly go against the principal.

Pictures of graduates
MyLoupe/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
MyLoupe/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

He was proud of his accomplishment and wanted to show people his plans after receiving his diploma. While the principal had made a comment earlier about his uniform, Jacob politely told him it’s what he wanted to wear.

His Mother Was Infuriated

Jacob was wearing the uniform symbolizing that he was willing to lay his life down for his country. Why was he being treated like this? His mother looked around and noticed other students whose names had been called that had also broken the dress code.

In an interview, Kathy went on to say, “There was one student who wore shorts and gym shoes, and another student who wore a red turban symbolizing his religious views.”

Jacob Went All Out

For his graduation, Jacob decided that he wanted to wear his full dress blue Marine Corps. At the time, there was nothing in the Crown Point Community School Corp. bylaws that stated whether U.S. military uniforms could be worn at graduation or not.

Picture of marines
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Not a single person seemed to care except for the principal. In fact, the majority of people were outraged by the whole situation, considering that Jacob had just enlisted to serve the country.

People Were There For Support

Leann Tustison, one of Jacob’s fellow graduates, commented that the situation was “absolutely ridiculous […] He’s in the military putting his life on the line for us. It’s unacceptable that he was not allowed to walk across the stage.”

Tustison went on to say that all of the fellow students were “outraged” and were prepared to walk out of the graduation in solidarity with Jake.

Outcry From All Over

It didn’t take long for word to spread about what had happened at the graduation. Christal Hernandez, who heard the story posted on Facebook, wrote this:

Robert Alexander/Getty Images
Robert Alexander/Getty Images

“It amazes me that all through life, people are always telling you to be proud that you’re different, celebrate your uniqueness, yet at one of the most memorable events in your life, an administrator makes the decision to completely destroy your accomplishments.”

The Story Reached Many People

Even the House Education Committee heard the story not long after everything had happened.

One user on Facebook posted, “I sent a letter to Mr. Pettit a letter today. I know of people who are pulling all financial support of CPHS and their programs over this. If that were my son, I would have escorted him across the stage.” During all this commotion, the real question was what Mr. Pettit had to say.

Jacob Didn’t Take The Warning Seriously

Supposedly, when Jacob participated in the Crown Point High School graduation ceremony rehearsal that day, Mr. Pettit had approached Jacob, informing him that he wouldn’t be able to wear his uniform during the ceremony.

Jacob didn’t think much of it and was shocked when the principal stayed true to his word. While Mr. Pettit had given Jacob a warning, was taking Jacob’s name off of the list the right thing to do? Was it worth it?

Mr. Pettit Wouldn’t Back Down

Despite all of the hate that Principal Pettit received for what happened at the graduation, he stood his ground. He was firm in his beliefs that he was only enforcing school policy and that Jacob could have worn a military stole or cord over his gown to demonstrate that he was going into the Marines.

Picture of graduates
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Pettit commented to NBC Chicago, stating, “This tradition is not intended to be disrespectful to students, parents, or our community, but as a source of pride for our students.”

Adding Fuel To The Fire

To anger the public even more, at Hobart High School, a young woman named Ana Kritikos had also enlisted in the Marine Corps and graduated early to do so. She was even given permission to wear her military uniform during the official commencement ceremony with all of the other students.

Rick Loomis/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Rick Loomis/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Supposedly, when she asked the administration if she could wear her uniform, they were in total support of the idea and commended her for it.

What Was The Difference?

Praising the administration for their decision to let her wear her uniform, Ana commented, “They have been absolutely amazing. It is OK with the Marines for us to wear our uniforms at high school graduation […] I know the School Board, the principal, and superintendent talked about it and were in agreement that I could wear my Marine uniform.”

So why wasn’t Jacob allowed to wear his when other high schools were encouraging their students to?

Hobart High Was Beyond Supportive

While Crown Point High School was still under fire for what happened to Jacob, Peggy Buffington, the Hobart High Superintendent, had something else to say.

Picture of Peggy

“We recognize audience members and future military in our graduates by having them stand,” she said. “It is always a very special and patriotic moment where the audience roars with applause. This year was especially nice because Ana Kritikos graduated midterm and landed just in time for the graduation ceremony.”

The Marine Corps Had Something To Say

According to a US Marine Corps spokesman, school dress code is not something that the military gets involved in. Marine Corps Major Clark Carpenter commented, “The Marine Corps does not dictate what specific high schoolers can or cannot graduate in […] That decision is up to school leadership.”

Picture of a uniform
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

While some people were disappointed to hear this, it turns out that school leaders may not have the last say when it comes to wearing military uniforms for long.

The State Became Involved

As the news spread, it reached the ears of State Representative Mike Aylesworth, who was beside himself regarding Jacob’s story. Being a veteran himself, he had something to say about it. He said, “What happened I found not appropriate.

I think people who are willing to put themselves in harm’s way should have the option to wear a uniform at graduation.” Unsurprisingly, countless people agreed with him.

He Pushed A New Bill

Before long, State Representative Mike Aylesworth had achieved committee approval for a new bill that made it so school districts could allow students already serving in the military to wear their dress uniform rather than the traditional cap and gown.

In my old Chevy truck

Posted by Michael J Aylesworth on Friday, October 23, 2009

After the bill passed, Mike added, “It’s a hodgepodge of local school board regulations all over the state. I just want to make it consistent all over the state.” He was praised for his efforts by the public.

Jacob Had Something To Say

Although Wheeler Stanley, Jacob’s father, refused to comment about exactly what happened at the graduation, he did say that he would support legislation in enforcing a uniform standard across the state.

dvids / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
dvids / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

When Jacob was later asked how he felt about everything, he stated, “I don’t want the social media controversy that is drawing attention away from the Class of 2017 […] I also do not want to make any additional statements and wish to put this all behind me so I can start my career in the Marine Corps.”

One Arby’s In Arizona Had A Peculiar Customer

Most people have a favorite restaurant that they visit frequently. For one 97-year-old man, it was an Arby’s in Chandler, Arizona. He would go there for lunch every day and order the same meal each time.

YouTube/ABC15 Arizona
YouTube/ABC15 Arizona

This man visited so often that every staff member knew him. But nobody saw him as often as the manager, Christina Gamage, who became curious about why he chose this particular restaurant. After all, he had been going there for years.

For Years, He Ordered The Same Meal

Gamage began working as an Arby’s manager in 2015. Shortly after she started working, an elderly man with a walker started coming in. Every day, he entered the restaurant around lunchtime and ordered the same meal.

YouTube/ABC15 Arizona
YouTube/ABC15 Arizona

This wasn’t the only Arby’s in Chandler; it was on the corner of Queen Creek and Alma School Roads in the northern side of town. Because of his walker, Gamage assumed that the man simply went to the Arby’s closest to him. But why?

Employees Called Him Mr. Doug

Two years flew by since the man began visiting Arby’s, and all the employees knew him. His name was Doug Parker, although everyone knew him as “Mr. Doug.” They did everything they could to make sure he was comfortable.


“He comes in with a walker, as soon as we see him come to the doors, we try [to] grab the doors for him,” Christina Gamage told FOX10. The employees would also lead him to his table– the same one every day, of course.

Mr. Doug Lived Through Some Hard Times

Mr. Doug appeared shortly after Gamage started working there. Over the years, she learned a few things about him. He told her that he was a decorated World War II veteran and lived in the retirement home down the street.

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YouTube/azfamily powered by 3TV & CBS5AZ

“He’s gone through a lot being a veteran, coming in, being in a retirement home,” Gamage later said, “but he doesn’t have family.” It was a sad story, and Mr. Doug had clearly gone through some hard times.

Soon, He Became Part Of The Family

Although he was alone, Mr. Doug was very kind to all of the Arby’s employees and fellow patrons. People even looked forward to his arrival. “We try to go above and beyond for him because he needs the extra love,” Gamage said.

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YouTube/azfamily powered by 3TV & CBS5AZ

The Arby’s employees considered Mr. Doug as a part of their family. But that did not satiate their curiosity; why did he come here every day, and why did he order the same sandwich and drink?

But Why Did He Always Order The Same Thing?

Over the years Gamage had learned Mr. Doug’s order by heart: “A roast beef slider with the Swiss melted…and a Coke with no ice.” She wasn’t the only one. Every employee had memorized Mr. Doug’s order.

YouTube/ABC15 Arizona
YouTube/ABC15 Arizona

But that did not explain why he bought the same meal every day. Wouldn’t he get tired of eating it all the time? After almost two-and-a-half years, Gamage finally decided to ask him. Surely it wasn’t just because of the caring service?

His Answer Was Unexpected

One day, while Mr. Doug was sitting as his usual table, Gamage brought his order to him. After she gave it to him, she asked, “Hey, Mr. Doug. We just want to know what keeps you coming back to this Arby’s location?”

YouTube/ABC15 Arizona
YouTube/ABC15 Arizona

Doug’s reply was not what any of the employees had expected. “This is the only place I can get a sandwich or anything else to eat that doesn’t hurt my stomach,” he admitted.

Mr. Doug Could Only Eat At Arby’s

“He has a stomach disorder, this is, unfortunately, the only thing he can eat,” explained general manager Travis Coye. Sadly, this disorder limited what Doug could eat. The Arby’s sandwich was the only thing that helped him feel good, and with no family to provide for him, he had to get it himself.

YouTube/ABC15 Arizona
YouTube/ABC15 Arizona

Word quickly spread amongst the employees– that Mr. Doug wasn’t eating his order because it was his favorite meal, but out of necessity. The staff felt empathy for him.

The Employees Decided To Help

Since the Arby’s staff knew that Doug had no family, they decided to help him themselves. “He’s expressed to us multiple times that we’re like his family, and we feel that ourselves,” Coye said. Surely, there must be something they could do to make his life easier.

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YouTube/azfamily powered by 3TV & CBS5AZ

The Arby’s staff gathered to discuss what they could do, and they even pooled money for the donation. It was a community effort, but it would end up paying off for everyone.

One Worker Added A Suspicious Addition To A Meal

In December 2018, Daniel Moloney was eating at the Arby’s on Queen Creek with his mother. While watching the employees, he noticed one of the workers drop a red card inside of a food bag as a last-minute addition.

Lauren A. Little/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images
Lauren A. Little/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

The employee sneaked a look at the customer after sticking the card in the bag. Moloney noticed that she was looking at Doug–after all, every regular knew Mr. Doug. What was she doing? Surely nothing nefarious, right?

What Were They Doing?

Stunned, Moloney took out his phone, ready to document whatever the employee had dropped into that meal. Did they sabotage a customer’s meal? But little did Moloney know that that was all part of a plan organized by the entire staff.

YouTube/ABC15 Arizona
YouTube/ABC15 Arizona

The red card was actually a donation that the entire Arby’s staff cooperated to make. Along with Moloney, the entire Arby’s staff was watching Doug expectantly. How would they react to this surprise gift?

The Employees Gave Doug A Massively Generous Gift

As it turns out, the Arby’s staff gave Mr. Doug a $200 gift card to the restaurant. All of the employees had contributed money to the gift card, which would cover a few weeks’ worth of meals.

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YouTube/azfamily powered by 3TV & CBS5AZ

“We really enjoy you here, and we always want you to come back,” Gamage told Mr. Doug as he opened the gift card. Onlookers such as Maloney were shocked; rarely did staff of a large restaurant chain give away expensive gift cards.

Mr. Doug’s Reaction Was Priceless

When Doug received the $200 gift card, he was overwhelmed with emotion. “He was shocked,” Gamage recalled. “[He] hardly had anything to say.”

YouTube/ABC15 Arizona
YouTube/ABC15 Arizona

Although words could not express how Doug felt, he still had a joke to lighten the mood. “I never know if I’ll be here the next day, but thank you so much for this,” the veteran said. That encapsulates what kind of man Mr. Doug is: a down-to-earth, humorous, and kind one.

But Wait–There Was More To The Gift

Believe it or not, the gift card was only one part of the gift. The Arby’s employees also gave Mr. Doug their personal phone numbers. They even offered to deliver lunch to him.

YouTube/ABC15 Arizona
YouTube/ABC15 Arizona

If Mr. Doug ever got sick, or couldn’t make it to Arby’s for any other reason, the employees would bring him his favorite meal. That way, Doug would not have to eat anything that would upset his stomach. The staff was truly going above and beyond.

Unknown To The Employees, Their Kindness Was Recognized

Unbeknownst to the employees, customer Daniel Moloney had witnessed the entire interaction. He also took a photo of the exchange on his phone, which he later posted on Facebook. He captioned it with an explanation of Mr. Dough and the gift.

YouTube/Viral Stories
YouTube/Viral Stories

To be clear, the staff had not asked Moloney to document Doug’s early Christmas gift. He posted it because he could not believe the generosity that the Arby’s employees provided. However, nobody expected the story to go viral.

The Customer Shared Mr. Doug’s Gift On Facebook

Moloney’s Facebook post ensured that the charitably Arby’s staff did not go unnoticed. This is one of those moments that make you happy to be alive, Moloney wrote, along with a summary of Mr. Doug’s gift.

YouTube/Viral Stories
YouTube/Viral Stories

“There are so many good people in the world,” Moloney continued. “These employees selflessly put in their own money, so an elderly man could come in and enjoy dinner on what he never knew could be his last [day].”

And The Story Quickly Went Viral

Doug Moloney’s now-deleted Facebook post went viral. Other accounts that reshared the story have garnered over 12,000 likes and over 8,300 shares. Commenters were giving kudos to the Arby’s staff and thanked Mr. Doug for his service.

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YouTube/azfamily powered by 3TV & CBS5AZ

“Thank you Doug for your service and thank you to the employees, management, and corporate for their generosity,” wrote one commenter Carol Ann Muzik. “It’s so good to see that there are good and caring people in this crazy world we’re living in now!”

Similar Stories Happen At Other Fast Food Restaurants

Doug is not the only retired veteran to befriend a restaurant. One Facebook commenter, Marie Street, explained that similar stories happen at many fast food restaurants. Elderly patrons with little or no family come in often, if not every day, to enjoy the food and social life.

Rich Fury/Getty Images
Rich Fury/Getty Images

“I know from my personal experience [that] I looked forward to seeing them as much as they looked forward to coming in,” she wrote. Hopefully these customers also receive some benefits.

Then, The Story Made National Headlines

It wasn’t long before the story made national headlines. FOX 10 swiftly picked up the story and visited the Arby’s in Chandler. There, they interviewed the staff and received the full story.

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YouTube/azfamily powered by 3TV & CBS5AZ

From there, the story took off. The Chandler community was particularly impacted. They rejoiced because their local restaurant aided one of their veterans when nobody else would. Unbeknownst to Doug, this would result in even more generous gifts for him in the future.

Arby’s Corporate Wanted To Get Involved

When Doug’s story made national headlines, it also made it to corporate. Initially, Doug’s gift had nothing to do with corporate; it was planned and organized by the local staff. But after hearing the news, corporate wanted to get involved.

Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Arby’s headquarters, which is located in Atlanta, Georgia, appreciated their employees’ generosity. They decided to extend Doug’s gift far more than the Chandler staff initially had. Believe it or not, Doug’s story was about to become more heartwarming.

Corporate Proposed An Even Better Gift

Although the $200 gift card was magnanimous, the employees at Arby’s corporate thought that Doug deserved more. They believed that Doug should receive free meals for life so that he could continue to eat without upsetting his stomach.

Rich Fury/Getty Images
Rich Fury/Getty Images

Of course, corporate could not enact this without gaining permission from the local Chandler restaurant. Daily free meals would cost the store a lot of money–around a few hundred dollars per week. Could the store afford to do such a thing?

Mr. Doug Received Free Meals For Life

Fortunately for Doug, the Arby’s in Chandler had no problem offering him free meals. “Let’s give him Arby’s for life,” Gamage told ABC News. “I have no problem with that.”

YouTube/ABC15 Arizona
YouTube/ABC15 Arizona

Had the employees been able to afford all of Doug’s meals, they would have. But individual stores cannot provide free meals without the permission of corporate. Now that they had it, the employees could give Doug another surprise–one that he wouldn’t expect even in his wildest dreams.

The Second Surprise Was Even Better

Soon after Doug received his $200 gift card, the Arby’s staff provided him with a second surprise. They told him that, once his gift card ran out, all other meals were free. He was free from stomach issues for life.

YouTube/ABC15 Arizona
YouTube/ABC15 Arizona

Just as before, Doug was delighted. Although his reaction was not captured on a customer’s phone, he did reveal how important it was in interviews. He felt as touched by the staff as the staff was by him.

Doug Also Considered The Staff To Be His New Family

During an interview with ABC News, Mr. Doug explained that the Arby’s staff were his new family. “Anything I need, they give it to me,” he said. The staff’s extra attention and care did not go unnoticed.

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YouTube/azfamily powered by 3TV & CBS5AZ

He felt thrilled that all of his future meals were free. “It’s just so satisfying,” he said about his Arby’s meal. It is good that he still likes it, since he’ll continue to eat it for a while.

Why Would Arby’s Do This?

Some people were skeptical about Arby’s involvement in one man’s life. Some people suggested that the company would spend more money on advertising than Doug’s free meals, which gives them free publicity.

Lauren A. Little/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images
Lauren A. Little/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

But Arby’s has a greater motivation to get invested in this story. The company has supported veterans for years, and they offer free Roast Beef sandwiches for veterans on every Veteran’s Day. Along with that, they donate to other charities such as No Kid Hungry.

A Veteran Organization Recognized The Staff

In May 2019, a veterans group decided to officially recognize the employees at Arby’s. Run for the Wall is a charity group that encourages people to ride motorcycles on pre-planned routes, all while raising money for veterans.

YouTube/ABC15 Arizona
YouTube/ABC15 Arizona

The routes usually end at memorial cemeteries, where fundraisers honor and respond those who were KIA or MIA. As a well-known veteran support group, Run for the Wall was particularly impressed by the staff at Arby’s, who were not seeking fame or recognition.

The Staff Were Proud To Support The Cause

Run for the Wall announced their recognition of the Arby’s staff in Chandler, Arizona for treating Mr. Doug like family. Gamage couldn’t be happier. “It was truly an honor, she said. “There are so many amazing stories about our veterans, and I thank them for everything they’ve done for us!”

YouTube/ABC15 Arizona
YouTube/ABC15 Arizona

Veterans often struggle with health conditions and adjusting to civilian life. By supporting Doug, Gamage hoped that other people would feel inspired to reach out to other veterans.

Even An Eye Doctor Reached Out To Doug

Arby’s was not the only person to reach out to Doug. After hew news story broke, a local optometrist decided to help, too. One day, he stopped by the Arby’s to talk to Doug.

Rolf Vennenbernd/picture alliance via Getty Images
Rolf Vennenbernd/picture alliance via Getty Images

The eye doctor offered Mr. Doug a free eye exam. During it, he realized that Doug’s glasses were no longer the right prescription. He then gave Doug a free pair of glasses so that the veteran would not have to strain his eyes.

Even During Illness, The Arby’s Staff Helped

In spring 2019, Doug could not walk to Arby’s due to an illness. The staff followed up on their promise. Every day, an employee delivered his favorite meal to the retirement home where he lived.

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YouTube/azfamily powered by 3TV & CBS5AZ

“Right now, he’s unable to get to us,” Gamage told ABC15. “So we make sure he still gets his meals somehow.” It seems that the staff’s help was not just empty promises, and Doug is well cared for even when he can’t show up.