To thunderous cheers and applause, thirty-three local veterans were awarded their belated high school diplomas in a ceremony held May 14 by the Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE). The number of diploma recipients is the highest since the 2001 inception of the Operation Recognition program.
The diplomas were presented by the Sacramento County Board of Education 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, who put their plans on the shelf, in order to serve our country. This is our opportunity to thank them for their sacrifice and service," said David W. Gordon, Sacramento County Superintendent of Schools.
Honorees in attendance, joined by family members and friends, gathered with Sacramento County Board of Education Trustees at Sacramento's DoubleTree Hotel for a pre-ceremony reception. A flag ceremony presented by the Folsom Joint Veterans Organization Color Guard opened the event. Board President Victoria L. Deane 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," Deane told the honorees.
Student speaker Heile Gantan, a senior from Monterey Trail High School, gave a special tribute to veterans who made sacrifices during times of war.
"These past soldiers have greatly honored our country, and as a fellow American, I have proudly taken on the responsibility, from my own heart, to honor our veterans in return," Gantan said.
The El Camino High School Jazz Combo provided entertainment for the reception's 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 128 individuals, including four posthumous awards.
Those interested in applying for an Operation Recognition diploma should call (916) 228-2416.
Fred Allen is a resident of Sacramento, in the Arden area. He served as a U.S. Marine Corps corporal during the Korean War. Mr. Allen attended El Camino High School in Sacramento.
Dwight Baldwin lives in Natomas area. He served in the Army as a light weapons infantryman during the Vietnam War. During his service, Mr. Baldwin earned his sharpshooter's badge, Vietnam service medal, Army commendation medal, and Purple Heart. He is a graduate of Drill Sergeant School in Fort Ord. He attended Grant High School in Sacramento.
Darrell Boykin is a resident of Sacramento, the El Camino area. He served as a U.S. Army supply clerk. Among his assignments was STRATCOM (U.S. Army Strategic Communications Command) in Europe during the Vietnam War. He is the recipient of the Good Conduct Medal. Mr. Boykin attended Bennett High School in Buffalo, New York before entering the service.
Timothy Callahan is a resident of South Sacramento. He served in the U.S. Navy and the Naval Reserve as an equipment operator. Among his assignments was the Naval Air Station in Guam. Mr. Callahan attended Reseda High School in Reseda, California.
Facundo Campoy lives in Fair Oaks. He served as a vehicle mechanic with U.S. Army during the Korean War. Among his honors: the Presidential Unit Citation, Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal. He attended San Juan High School in Citrus Heights and also received his GED through the U.S. Army's Tokyo American High School in Japan.
Gerald Cheadle lives in the El Camino area of Sacramento. During the Vietnam War, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps where he earned his Rifle Marksman Badge. He attended Oakland High School, in Oakland, California.
Wayne Cowin lives in Rio Linda. He served in the U.S. Navy during WWII, serving aboard the USS Nereus submarine tender as ship's cook. Among his awards: the Asiatic Pacific, American Area, and Victory Medals. He attended Westwood High School, in Westwood, California.
Edwin Cozby lives in Fair Oaks. He served as a radar repairman with the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War where he earned the Good Conduct Medal and the National Defense Service Medal. Mr. Cozby attended Bella Vista High School in Fair Oaks.
Jerry Fung lives in South Sacramento's Vintage Park area. During the Vietnam War, he served initially in the U.S. Army, and then transferred to the U.S. Reserve Unit in the Presidio where he completed the marine machinist apprenticeship program at Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco. His other assignments included the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and the Mare Island Naval Shipyard. Mr. Fung attended John Adams High School in San Francisco.
Roddy Gatdula lives in North Highlands and served as radio operator and radio operations supervisor for the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy during World War II and the Vietnam War. He was born in the Philippines, where he attended Olongapo High School.
John Gonzales, a Tahoe Park area resident, served in the Army as an operations technician in Vietnam. During his service, he earned the Good Conduct Medal and the National Defense Service Medal. He attended Elgin High School in Elgin, Texas, before entering into service.
Bill Imhof lives in Sacramento. He served as a radio operator in the U.S. Army, two tours of duty: Germany and Vietnam. Among his many awards: Vietnam Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal. Mr. Imhof attended Hiram Johnson High School in Sacramento.
Kazuo Denis Inouye was a WW II internee at the Tule Lake center in California. He had been attending Sacramento High School before his internment. Since 1953, he has lived in Florida, which he called his adopted state.
Frank M. served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. He attended C.K. McClatchy High School in Sacramento.
Robert Keaton is a resident of the Florin area of Sacramento. He served as an Air Force master sergeant during the Korean War AND Vietnam War and spent 26 years in the Air Force before his retirement in 1978. He attended Crane Technical High School in Chicago, Illinois.
Danny King, a resident of downtown Sacramento, served in the Army during the Vietnam War and served in conjunction with the deployment of the Hawk Missile. Among his honors: the Sharpshooter's badge and the Good Conduct Medal. Mr. King attended Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento.
Frank Maldonado lives in the Midtown area of Sacramento. He served in the Marines during the Vietnam War where he earned his Sharpshooter's badge and the Good Conduct Medal. He later served with the Marine Corps Reserves. Mr. Maldonado attended Lincoln Continuation High School in Sacramento.
John McElroy lives in North Sacramento. He served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War where his primary assignment was fire technician. He attended East Bakersfield High School, in Bakersfield, California.
Wilfred Nuñez, a resident of Antelope, was a Marine Corps sergeant. He served as a machine gunner during the Korean War AND the Vietnam War. During his service, he earned the Good Conduct Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the Korean Service Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal. Before entering the service he attended Christian Brothers High School in Sacramento.
Albert Nygren, a resident of Orangevale, served in the U.S. Army during WW II where he earned the Victory Medal and the Army of Occupation Medal. During the course of his service, he served on the island of Korea with M Company, of the 63rd Infantry Regiment. Mr. Nygren attended San Juan High School in Citrus Heights.
Ernesto Ortega is a resident of the Rosemont area of Sacramento. He served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War. He attended Cathedral Academy in Los Angeles.
Tsutomu Ota is a resident of the Land Park area of Sacramento. Mr. Ota was interned at Tule Lake in Newell, California. Prior to his internment, he attended Sacramento High School in Sacramento.
Melvin Rose lives in Fair Oaks. He served in the Navy, as a seaman second class during WW II. Among his postings was the U.S.S. Bridge naval cargo ship. He attended high school in Michigan.
Joe Secco lives in the south part of the county, near Elk Grove. He served as a commisaryman on a number of U.S. Coast Guard vessels during the Korean War. Prior to his service, Mr. Secco attended Sacramento High School in Sacramento.
Anthony Tafoya is a resident of West Sacramento. He served in the Army as a medical aidman during the Korean War. During his service, he earned the National Defense Service Medal and the Parachutist Badge. He attended Woodland High School in Woodland, California.
J.C. Terry, of Sacramento's Tahoe Park area, served with the U.S. Army, then transferred to the Army National Guard, from which he retired with the rank of sergeant. He served during the Vietnam War. He earned the following recognitions: National Defense Service Medal, Parachutist Badge, Combat Infantry Badge, Air Medal, Vietnam Service Medal (3 campaigns), Army Commendation Medal, and the Purple Heart. He attended J.W. Darden High School in Opelika, Alabama.
Ralph Vanderhave lives in the Florin area of South Sacramento. During WWII, he served in the U.S. Army as an automotive mechanic with the 23rd Infantry Regiment, and during the Korean War, he served as an Airman 1st Class with the Air Force. Prior to service, Mr. Vanderhave attended Rio Vista High School in Rio Vista, California.
Mark Velarde is a resident of South Sacramento. He served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War where he earned the following medals: National Defense Service, Armed Forces Occupation, Good Conduct, and Marksman. Mr. Velarde attended Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento.
Charles Wagner lives in Carmichael. He served in the Navy in the Pacific during WW II aboard the USS Achilles, one of 39 special craft repair ships built for the Navy during World War II. He was awarded the Good Conduct Medal and the Victory Ribbon. Mr. Wagner attended San Fernando High School in San Fernando, California.
Edward Weil is a resident of the Florin area of Sacramento. During the Vietnam War, he served as a mechanic in the U.S. Army. He was awarded the Vietnam Service Medal with 3 Bronze Service Stars, the National Defense Service Medal, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, and the Sharpshooter medal. He attended Oceanside High School in Oceanside, California.
Lawrence Windham lives in the South Land Park area of Sacramento. He served in the U.S. Army and the Army Reserve. Mr. Windham served with the 31st Field Artillery Battalion in Korea during the Korean War. He received the Korean Service Medal with 3 Bronze Stars, National Defense Medal, and United Nations Service Medal. Mr. Windham attended Lahainluna High School on the island of Maui, Hawaii.
Robert Ybarra is a resident of the Natomas area of Sacramento. He served in the Army as an aviator and Intelligence Analyst during the Vietnam War and was in the military from 1971 to 2004. He also served with the National Guard. Mr. Ybarra attended high school in Georgia.
Louis Zabala lives in South Sacramento's Meadowview area. He served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War with the 31st Infantry Regiment. Among his honors: the Combat Infantry Badge, Korean Service Medal with 2 Bronze Stars, and the United Nations Service Medal. Mr. Zabala attended Grant High School in Sacramento.