Alan Holmes, an eighth-grade student in Gresham, Ore., still remembers the day his older brother returned home after serving in Iraq with the Marines.
“I was proud of him,” Holmes told ABC affiliate KATU. “I remember the day he came home and I was just so happy. I was little but I still remember it, he made me happy.”
As he got older, Holmes’s pride turned into patriotism. He wanted to demonstrate that patriotism last week by wearing a T-shirt to school that included a design memorializing fallen soldiers and bearing the words “Standing for those who stood for us,” according to KATU. Instead, the image on his shirt — boots, a helmet and a gun — got him suspended, the station reported.
Officials at Dexter McCarty Middle School asked Holmes to change his shirt, according to Fox affiliate KPTV. When he refused, the station reported, he was given an ultimatum: Remove the shirt or face suspension.
The standoff comes during an extremely tense time in schools across the country, but especially among those in Oregon. Last week, a 26-year-old man walked into Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., armed with three pistols and a semiautomatic rifle and began methodically shooting students and professors. The incident, which occurred on the fourth day of the fall semester, left nine people dead, as well as the shooter, and led to 10 being hospitalized.
Holmes has refused to back down, but his suspension has left him saddened.
“I was just upset,” he told KATU. “I was heartbroken. My brother, he means everything for me. Just being able to help and give back to the people who fought and died for us it just makes me feel good.”
School administrators called Holmes’s father and asked him to pick up his son from school.
“Yeah, I’m proud of him,” Charles Holmes, Alan’s father, told KPTV. “I would’ve done the same thing.”
Administrators declined to comment directly on the incident, telling KATU that confidentiality rules bar officials from discussing student issues. An official did tell the station, however, that an image of a gun is not appropriate in a school setting.
The school dress code bars students from wearing any clothes promoting alcohol, drugs, tobacco or violence.
Holmes told KATU that he understands why people in Oregon are particularly uncomfortable with gun imagery in an educational setting. But, he insists, the image is being misinterpreted by school officials.
“This isn’t relating the violence,” he said. “The barrel is pointing down. It’s total gun safety.”