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Four Recruits Who Wore Hate Symbols Rejected By Military

July 8, 1996

FRANKLIN, Mass. (AP) _ U.S. Army and Marine Corps officials have rejected four recruits after learning they wore swastikas and Ku Klux Klan slogans during their high school graduation.

Kevin Ricci, David Bazinet and Michael Gallerani were discharged from the Army, and Christopher Normandin from the Marines after the principal of Tri-County Regional Vocational-Technical High School notified recruiters.

``I felt obligated to let them know they were getting damaged goods,″ Peter Rickard said. ``I think the Army has become more sensitive to things like this.″

The four wore an array of hateful messages on their caps and gowns, ranging from swastikas to the words ``KKK White Power.″ The slogans went unnoticed by school officials, parents or other students until after the graduation ceremony.

``Why would you put a billboard on yourself saying something like that?″ said Jack Fetko, a spokesman for the Army’s New England Recruiting Battalion. ``When we looked at it like that, we decided we weren’t going to give them the chance to become soldiers.″

None of the recruits had yet reported for military training.

Ricci, Bazinet and Gallerani were discharged because of ``conduct unbecoming to someone in military service,″ said Capt. Patrick Hayes, the Army recruiter in Boston who interviewed the three.

The discharges were ``entry-level separations″ and ``not characterized as good or bad″ because no crime was committed, Hayes said.

Marine Corps officials said Normandin had been dismissed but refused further comment.

Normandin, the only one to respond to requests to comment on the dismissals, said: ``I wasn’t interested in going, anyway.″

The military has come under scrutiny for racism since last December, when three white soldiers from Fort Bragg allegedly searched the streets of Fayetteville, N.C., for black people before gunning down a young black couple. Two of the soldiers were reported to be members of a skinhead group.

Also over the weekend in Charlotte, N.C., the National Association for the Advancmeent Colored People held a special hearing on the issue. Military officials reiterated a policy of ``zero tolerance″ toward active participation in extremist groups.

``You can’t wink at it,″ said Charles Tompkins, a deputy assistant secretary of the Navy. ``It has to be dealt with swiftly and immediately.″

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