On Monday, hundreds of people with the community showed up for a special graduation for Harland J. Fletcher, a US Army Reserve who was told he could not walk during graduation in his military uniform and instead was told he could pick up his diploma on Monday.
After a social media post by Harland Fletcher’s father, Bill, it prompted the Liberty Union High School District Superintendent Eric Volta to issue a public apology to the Fletcher family.
The District took it a step further by holding a special ceremony after a social media campaign began for people of the community to show up in support of Fletcher.
During the ceremony, Liberty High School Principal Pat Walsh issued a public apology.
“We are all gathered here today to celebrate the accomplishment of Harland J. Fletcher. Harland has chosen a path that very few high school students take. We are very proud of his accomplishment, there is also a second reason why we are here today. For me personally, it gives me the opportunity to apologize publicly to Harland and his family. I met with them earlier and I had the opportunity to apologize personally and I wanted to do that before I apologized publicly. I made a mistake. I don’t mince words, and if I could do it all over again I would do it differently. I deeply regret what occurred and I thought that I needed to do two things in my life, one apologize, and two to try and find a way to make it better,” said Walsh.
He highlighted how he was in communication with the family over the weekend and put together a commencement ceremony on Monday.
“I am committed to continue to support Private First Class Fletcher and I just mentioned to his dad I hope we can stay in email communication about staying in touch on his journey. We are also going to work as a district; we support the military and those who choose the military. We support it here at Liberty High School. We are going to work to continue to show that support in the future. That is my commitment,” said Walsh.
Walsh explained that being a principal for 19-years, he estimates that he had shaken 7,000-to-9,000 graduates.
“In all that time, Harland Fletcher is the only one to accomplish this, it’s a very rare accomplishment and I am very proud of him,” said Walsh. “I am also a principal of high school students and I believe I should model the behavior I should ask of others and that is if you make a mistake, you apologize and make it better so that I can be an example for the students.”
Prior to receiving his diploma, he was recognized for his leadership by the Office of Supervisor Diane Burgis and presented with a Certificate of Recognition highlighting how the County of Contra Costa recognizes Fletcher who not only completed the course of his studies, but also exemplified leadership and selflessness and true faith to the United State Constitution.
Sean Kelly of the VFW Post 10789 of Brentwood presented Fletcher with a military coin for doing outstanding service to the community.
Fletcher then shared a few words.
“Thank you all for your support and coming out on this Monday. Today is not about me, I don’t want to make it about me, I want everyone to know this is about the brotherhood of the United States Army and all of our military, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines. It’s a chance to stand together as a community, as a state and a nation to make sure this doesn’t happen again in the future to anybody.”
Fletcher thanked his family and the community for showing up and providing support.
“Together, we can stand together to make sure nothing bad happens in the future,” said Fletcher.