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Belated High School Diplomas Awarded to U.S. Veterans and WW II Internees

Operation Recognition Diplomas Awarded to 71 Individuals Since 2001

Diploma recipients posing

Thirty individuals who missed completing high school due to wartime circumstances were awarded high school diplomas on May 24 by the Sacramento County Board of Education through its Operation Recognition program.

In a moving ceremony held in the ballroom of the Sacramento Hilton Hotel, local veterans of World War II and the Korean War, as well as Japanese American citizens interned during WW II, were honored for their sacrifices and contributions made in the name of freedom.

After a reception in the hotel foyer, the Sacramento County Board of Education convened to formally approve the awarding of diplomas. The Folsom Joint Veterans Organization Color Guard opened the proceedings with a flag ceremony and the Pledge of Allegiance. Sacramento County Superintendent of Schools David W. Gordon welcomed the honored guests, their families, friends, media representatives, and education leaders. Serving as master of ceremonies was public television spokesperson Dr. L. Steven Winlock, Elk Grove Unified School District Associate Superintendent for Elementary and Middle Education. Dr. Winlock introduced the honorees as Board of Education trustees presented each with his or her high school diploma and a commemorative hat/lapel pin.

Of the 30 recipients, 19 were present to receive their diplomas. Guest speaker Sarah Hill, a Ponderosa High School student honored by local veterans organizations, talked about the need to honor veterans and those who put aside fear to "do the right thing." The audience of more than 200 enjoyed music performed by the Rio Americano High School Jazz Band. A light dinner was served prior to the ceremony, followed by a red-white-and-blue cake. Several of the diploma recipients were interviewed for radio, TV and newspapers.

Said Superintendent Gordon, "It's a very small thing we do for these veterans, compared with what they did for us. It's a real honor for us to be able to give them these diplomas." Dr. Winlock stated, "This is a gesture of our society's gratitude for the sacrifices these individuals made in the name of freedom. We owe them the life we know today. They command the respect of the people, and they have our lasting gratitude."

Supporting the 2005 Operation Recognition event were staff and volunteers of the Sacramento County Office of Education, AmVets Capital Post Number 1, Miss California Teen America Program delegates, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6604, Sacramento County Friday Night Live County Youth Council, Marine Corps League, Sacramento County Veterans Service Officer Jeff Pealer, James Timms of the Marine Corps League, VFW Ladies Auxiliary 6604, Kathryn Ecenbarger (Successor Trustee of the Staples Trust), and Fred Tully, Jr.

High School Diploma Awardees

  • Judge Albert, Jr. (U.S. Air Force, WW II & Korean War)
  • Oliveiro Avis (U.S. Army, Korean War)
  • George Combs (U.S. Army, WW II)
  • Jack Criswell (U.S. Navy, WW II)
  • Cleveland Cushing (U.S. Navy, WW II & Korean War)
  • Kenneth DeSouza (U.S. Army, WW II)
  • Marvin Dowd (U.S. Marines, Korean War)
  • William Egan (U.S. Marine Corps, Korean War)
  • Thomas Ferrel (U.S. Marine Corps, WW II)
  • Clifford Fleischbein (U.S. Marine Corps, WW II)
  • Jay Gastelum (U.S. Navy, Korean War)
  • William Hall (U.S. Coast Guard & U.S. Army, WW II)
  • Paul Hamilton (U.S. Air Force, Korean War, Vietnam War)
  • August Heinitz (Army Air Corps, WW II)
  • Mike Ingle (U.S. Navy, WW II)
  • Charles Kelly (U.S. Coast Guard & U.S. Army, WW II)
  • John Koenck (U.S. Air Force, Korean War)
  • Franklin McClure (U.S. Air Force, Korean War)
  • John McNair (U.S. Marines, WW II) posthumous award
  • Toyoko Nakatogawa (WW II Internee)
  • Frank Nickelson (U.S. Navy, WW II)
  • Franklin Puckett (U.S. Air Force, Korean War)
  • Raymond Rodriguez (U.S. Marines, WW II)
  • Clarence Schroeder (U.S. Navy, WW II)
  • Jay Shifflette (U.S. Air Force, Korean War)
  • Jimmy Sinetos (U.S. Navy, WW II)
  • Arthur Smith (WW II)
  • Earl Strauch (U.S. Navy, WW II)
  • Sumiko Washino Sumida (WW II Internee)
  • Henry Thienes (U.S. Navy, WW II)

The County Board of Education invites qualifying persons to participate in the Operation Recognition program. Those eligible include Japanese American citizens who were forced to leave high school due to internment in a World War II relocation camp, and veterans who left high school to serve in the U.S. military in World War II or the Korean War.


  • All applicants or recipients: be a Sacramento County resident.
  • Veterans: show proof of Honorable Discharge from U.S. military service occurring any time during WW II or the Korean War.
  • Japanese American citizens: show proof of internment in a WW II relocation camp.
  • All applicants: give name of high school the applicant was attending at time of induction into military service or incarceration.
  • Persons who earned a GED are eligible.
  • Persons outside of Sacramento County will be referred to their local county office of education.
  • Individuals may request diplomas on behalf of themselves or qualifying family members, including persons who are now deceased.
  • Honorees need not be present at an Operation Recognition ceremony in order to receive a high school diploma.
  • There is no cost for a diploma through Operation Recognition.

Operation Recognition applications are available by mail (Operation Recognition, P.O. Box 269003, Sacramento, CA 95826-9003), or by calling (916) 228-2449.

Operation Recognition high school diplomas have been awarded to 71 individuals by the Sacramento County Board of Education. Four of the diplomas were awarded posthumously. Diplomas issued through Operation Recognition are authorized by the California Education Code (§ 51430 and § 51440).