Veterans Receive Diplomas Missed During World War II, Korea and Vietnam Wars

Veterans celebrate receiving their diplomas at Operation Recognition

Celebrating receiving their diplomas at Operation Recognition are: (Back Row) Alan Gonsalves (US Navy Korean War), Larry Lyon (US Army Vietnam War), Samson Trevino (US Army Vietnam War), Ruben Zamora (US Army/Navy Vietnam War), and Robert Cloyd (US Navy Vietnam War); (Front Row) Austin Acord (US Army World War II), Carter McCabe and David McCabe, great grandson and grandson of Raymond Carter (US Army/Navy World War II/Korean War), and Stefanie Rodriguez, daughter of Frank Rodriguez (US Army World War II).

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.

Photos from the event

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