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Marine father stands watch at Nashville elementary school

10:47 PM, Dec 19, 2012   |    comments
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WSMV Channel 4

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -- In the wake of the Newtown, CT, shooting, many parents are wondering what they can do to keep their children safe at school.

That is why one Nashville father decided that if anyone was going to keep watch of his kids and their teachers, it would be him.

With no armed police and no metal detectors at Gower Elementary, there is just Staff Sgt. Jordan Pritchard.

"I feel like this is something I had to do," he said.

Like so many parents, Pritchard asked himself 'what can I do?' after 26 people - including 20 children - were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

His answer was to take his kids to school at Gower, then just stand out front, in full Marine uniform, and watch for any suspicious activity.

Calling him a guard is a bit of a stretch. He's not official security and he has no weapon.

"What this uniform represents, the hope it brings, is larger than any weapon that I would ever need," Pritchard said.

The sight, alone, of a Marine standing in the front of the school, watching everyone who comes in, is providing a sense of security for many in the community.

"I said, 'Boy, you don't know how much better I feel having you standing here,'" said school parent Billy Hester.

"It's awfully sad that we're at this state - that you no longer can feel safe about your children walking into a building. But that's where we are now," said Gower Principal Barbara Frazier.

Pritchard, who is the father of two Gower students, said he will stand watch at least until the holiday break.

He said he would like to see other veterans come to their children's schools in uniform just to provide an extra sense of security.

Dispute over Marine uniform

Whether it's a friendly wave or a decorated gingerbread house, the students and staff at Gower Elementary are showing their appreciation for Pritchard at their school.

"I've been telling them my daddy is out there in the Marine suit," said daughter Valerie Pritchard.

But it appears the Marine Corps is not too pleased about what Jordan Pritchard is wearing at the school.

"They said stop wearing it immediately or NCIS is going to press charges against me," Jordan Pritchard said.

Marines have strict rules about uniforms. Some are to be worn in public, and some are not.

It appears the one Jordan Pritchard was wearing is not allowed.

Jordan Pritchard contends he didn't have time to clean and press his dress uniform in time to be in front of the school Monday morning on the first school day after the Newtown shooting.

"It was not my intent, when I drug this uniform out of the closest, to upset the Marine Corps. It didn't even cross my mind," he said.

However, Jordan Pritchard said the thanks he has received, along with the sense of security he is providing, is worth any grief he may catch from the military.

"Strip me of my honorable discharge. Take it away. The peace that these parents and teachers have - that's enough honor for me," he said.

Former Marines, as long as they have left under honorable conditions, are allowed to wear their uniforms for events such as ceremonies, weddings and parades.

In this case, officials have asked Jordan Pritchard to stop wearing the uniform, because it does not follow Marine Corps protocol.

Copyright WSMV 2012 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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