Ruben Zamora was deployed with the U.S. Army thousands of miles from home during the Vietnam War when his friends were getting high school diplomas. “I thought about the diploma, it did matter, but I was doing what I wanted to do,” said Zamora, looking back across the four decades since he enlisted.
He and a dozen other veterans who missed out on graduation day due to military service finally received their diplomas on Tuesday, November 12, 2013, at the Moreno Valley Conference and Recreation Center during Operation Recognition, a program that awards veterans the diplomas they missed due to military service in World War II, the Korean War, or the Vietnam War. The diplomas are awarded as a joint effort of the Riverside County Board of Education, Riverside County Superintendent of Schools, Kenneth M. Young, and the Riverside County Department of Veterans Services.
Education Code Section 51440 authorizes the granting of retroactive high school diplomas to eligible veterans. Section 51430 authorizes the retroactive granting of diplomas to Japanese-American citizens whose internment by federal order in World War II prevented them from graduating from their hometown high school.
“Today was great,” said Zamora, who served 11 years in the Navy aboard the USS Oklahoma after leaving the Army, then worked in warehouses and retail stores. “I have my diploma. Now I plan to enroll at Riverside Community College next year.”
Among the group of veterans at the ceremony, one served in World War II, two during the Korean War, and eight in Vietnam. Two diplomas were awarded posthumously.
Since 2007, more than 225 veterans have received high school diplomas through the Riverside County Operation Recognition program.
“Following their service, the veterans went on to lead productive, successful lives, contributing to their country and community,” said Grant Gautsche, Interim Director of the Department of Veterans Services. “But they were missing something – completing their high school education and receiving their high school diploma.”
During the ceremony, veterans walked across the stage to receive diplomas from members of the Riverside County Board of Education while friends and families in the audience cheered. They posed for a “Class of 2013” photo afterwards, and shook hands with students in the Martin Luther King High School Chamber Singers group who sang patriotic songs during the ceremony.
Awarded diplomas are:
Austin Elmer Lee Acord (Riverside), US Army, World War II
David M. Barnes (Temecula), US Marine Corps, Vietnam War
Kenneth James Becker (Riverside), US Navy, Vietnam War
Raymond Frederick Carter (Nuevo), US Navy/Army, World War II, Korean War (posthumously)
Robert Dale Cloyd (Murrieta), US Navy, Vietnam War
Michael William Divel (Palm Desert), US Navy, Vietnam War
Alan F. Gonsalves (Calimesa), US Navy, Korean War
Larry James Lyon (Riverside), US Army, Vietnam War
Cruz Martinez (Banning), US Army, Korean War
Frank Ramirez Rodriguez (Riverside), US Army, World War II (posthumously)
Frank Sandwell (Riverside), US Navy, Vietnam War
Samson Charles Trevino (Hemet), US Army, Vietnam War
Ruben David Zamora (Riverside), US Army/Navy, Vietnam War