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Motorcycle Accident May Keep Top-Ranked Cadet From Graduating

March 26, 1992

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ A West Point cadet paralyzed in a motorcycle accident may not be allowed to graduate this spring because he can no longer meet the military academy’s physical requirements.

David Dickison, 21, was paralyzed from the waist down after the motorcycle he was riding near his home in Westfield crashed into a telephone pole March 16. Two days after the accident, his mother said, a colonel visited him in the hospital to tell him he could not graduate with his senior class.

″I was there with my fiance and David’s father,″ Jill Dickison said. ″We were outraged. ‘You must be joking,’ we told him.″

A West Point spokesman said Thursday that academy officials haven’t decided whether to let Dickison graduate.

The cadet has made the dean’s list every semester he has been at the military school in southeastern New York state and is ranked in the top 10 percent of his class.

″Dave has just done a superb job, both in leadership and in the academic areas,″ said the West Point spokesman, Lt. Col. Bruce Bell. ″It’s wrong to suggest we are heartless and lack compassion.

″But it may be possible he will not be permitted to graduate,″ Bell said.

He said all graduates must meet certain physical requirements, as well as military and academic standards.

The physical standards involve passing a test twice a year that includes situps, pushups and a two-mile run.

Bell said West Point’s academic board would review Dickison’s records before deciding whether he can graduate. He said he didn’t know how long that would take, adding he knows of no similar case the board has ever considered.

Dickison, who suffered a crushed spinal cord and is paralyzed for life, according to doctors, was scheduled to graduate with his class May 30.

While West Point deliberates his fate, Dickison’s mother has been rallying supporters.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg and Rep. Matthew Rinaldo, who nominated Dickison to the academy, have written letters of support. So have his high school teachers, coaches and friends, she said.

Dickison’s mother said her son and his family have accepted that his injury precludes his ever receiving a military commission. They just want him to graduate.

″He needs a first step in the rest of his life, and that’s the West Point diploma,″ she said. ″He’s not asking for something he didn’t earn.″

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