To thunderous cheers and applause, ten local veterans received their belated high school diplomas in a ceremony held on May 23 by the Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE).
The diplomas were presented by SCOE through a program called Operation Recognition. The program acknowledges veterans who missed graduating with their high school class because they enlisted in World War II, Korean War or Vietnam War military service, and Japanese American citizens whose internment in World War II relocation camps prevented them from graduating with their hometown high school class.
"This program is our humble way of paying tribute and acknowledging those who put their personal lives on hold in order to serve our country. This is our modest way of thanking them," said David W. Gordon, Sacramento County Superintendent of Schools.
Honorees in attendance, joined by family members and friends, gathered with County Board of Education Trustees at Sacramento's Hilton Hotel for a pre-ceremony reception. A flag ceremony presented by the Folsom Joint Veterans Organization Color Guard opened the event. Board President Brian Cooley conducted a brief meeting of the Board, during which Trustees unanimously voted to bestow diplomas.
"You remind every new generation of Americans of the heroic sacrifices and services you made and your enormous achievements," Cooley told the honorees.
Student speaker Curtis Cranston, a junior from Bella Vista High School, gave a special tribute to veterans who made sacrifices during times of war.
"You came from all walks of life, and you walked away from your personal lives to serve us. Awarding these diplomas is a symbolic gesture that will hopefully let you know that we appreciate all that you have sacrificed for us, for America," Cranston said.
Trustees presented diplomas to the following individuals:
- David E. Brown is a resident of Citrus Heights who served in the Army as a Combat Infantry Soldier during the Vietnam War. Among his many medals: the Vietnam Service Medal with two Bronze Stars and the Purple Heart. Prior to enlisting in the service, he attended Kearny High School in San Diego and La Canada High School in La Canada, California.
- Gilbert Randall Cabrera is a resident of Elk Grove who served in the Army as a Sharpshooter during the Vietnam War. He followed two older brothers into the Army, who also served in Vietnam. Prior to enlisting in the service, he attended John F. Kennedy High School in Sacramento.
- Henry Earl Davis is a resident of Citrus Heights who served in the Marines during the Vietnam War. He received the Presidential Unit Citation for his participation in Operation Hastings and was later attached to the "Walking Dead" Unit that patrolled the Mekong Delta. Prior to enlisting in the service, he attended C.K. McClatchy High School in Sacramento.
- Gordon Ray Grewe is a resident of West Sacramento who served in the Marines during the Vietnam War. During his service, he was stationed in Vietnam for three years where his unit received the Presidential Unit Citation, the Combat Action Ribbon and the Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation with Palm. Prior to enlisting in the service, he attended Sacramento High School.
- James Jerome Jimenez is a resident of Rio Linda who served in the Marines as an aircraft mechanic during World War II and as part of the 1st Anti-aircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion for the Korean War. Prior to enlisting in the service, he attended Merced Union High School in Merced, California.
- Floyd Kenneth May is a resident of the North Sacramento area who served in the Navy aboard the USS Kearsarge Aircraft Carrier during the Korean War. For his service, he received the National Defense Service Medal and the China Service Medal. Prior to enlisting in the service, he attended Grant Union High School in Sacramento.
- Gregory Charles McNeill is a resident of the Arden Arcade area who served in the Marines as a rifleman during the Vietnam War. He was awarded the Cross of Gallantry, the Combat Action Ribbon, the Navy Commendation Medal for Meritorious Service, and the Purple Heart. Prior to enlisting in the Marines, he attended Sacramento High School. He is also a graduate of American River College in Sacramento.
- Robert Lee Mumphrey is a resident of Sacramento who served in the Army during the Vietnam War as an Aircraft and Helicopter Mechanic. He was issued the Vietnam Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal, and the Army Commendation Medal. Prior to enlisting in the service, he attended Desha High High School in McGehee, Arkansas.
- Eliseo Peralta is a resident of Rio Linda who served as a member of the Philippine Commonwealth Army. He was in the service of the Armed Forces of the United States pursuant to the Call of the President of the United States during World War II. Prior to enlisting in the service, he lived in and attended school in the Philippines.
- Dan Joseph Pisani is a resident of Rosemont who served in the Coast Guard aboard the USS Joyce during World War II. Prior to enlisting in the service, he attended Sacramento High School. He also worked for Southern Pacific Railroad and was a semi-professional baseball player.
The Elk Grove High School Jazz Band provided entertainment for the reception's 100 guests, as well as performing a musical tribute during the diploma ceremony. The honorees posed for photos with their families and were interviewed by local media.
Operation Recognition was adopted unanimously in October 2001 by the Sacramento County Board of Education and has since expanded to include recognition of qualifying Vietnam War veterans. Operation Recognition high school diplomas are authorized by the California Education Code (§ 51430 and § 51440).
The Sacramento County Board of Education has thus far provided Operation Recognition high school diplomas to 94 individuals, including four posthumous awards. A photo gallery is available on SCOE's Operation Recognition website.
Those interested in applying for an Operation Recognition diploma for themselves or a qualifying family member should call (916) 228-2449.