To enthusiastic cheers and applause, ten individuals were awarded long overdue high school diplomas in a ceremony held May 17 by the Sacramento County Board of Education. Operation Recognition honors the contributions of veterans and Japanese American citizens who missed completing high school due to World War II, the Korean War or the Vietnam War. Two awards were awarded posthumously this year.
Honorees in attendance, joined by family members and friends, gathered with County Board of Education Trustees inside the David P. Meaney Education Center for a pre-ceremony reception. The El Camino High School Jazz Trio provided music for the reception, and a flag ceremony presented by the Marine Corps League of Folsom Color Guard opened the event. Board President Harold Fong conducted a brief meeting of the Board, during which Trustees unanimously voted to bestow diplomas.
Student speaker Brenda Perez Rangel, a senior from Highlands High School in the Twin Rivers Unified School District, gave a special tribute to veterans who made sacrifices during times of war by reading her award-winning essay entitled "Sacrifice in the Name of Freedom." The essay earned her first place in the SCOE Operation Recognition Essay/Scholarship Contest sponsored by SAFE Credit Union.
"We are who we are today; we are Americans, living in the strongest nation in the world built upon sacrifice after sacrifice, war after war. We are living proof that sacrifices out of love for the future lead to a nation in which people have the freedom to choose and decide their own destiny," Rangel said in her speech.
Trustees presented diplomas to the following individuals:
- Irving Bradley Cowan (served in the Vietnam War — U.S. Air Force, U.S. Air Force Reserve, CA National Guard); resident of Sacramento's Meadowview area; attended Richard T. Crane High School (Chicago, ILL)
- Mark Anthony Groom (served in the Vietnam War — U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve); lives in the northeast area of Sacramento; attended Campbell High School (Daytona Beach, FLA)
- Timothy Allen Haaby (served in the Vietnam War — U.S. Marine Corps); resident of Citrus Heights; attended San Juan La Vista High School (Citrus Heights, CA)
- Willis Francis Mohr (served in the Vietnam War — U.S. Army, U.S. Army Reserve); resident of Citrus Heights; attended St. Joseph High School (Atkinson, NEB)
- Larry H. Soza (served in the Korean War — U.S. Army, U.S. Army Reserve); resident of Mather; attended Kern County High School (Bakersfield, CA)
- Richard Donald Steele (served in the Korean War — U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force); resident of Gold Hill, OR; attended Grant Union High School (Sacramento, CA)
- Kenneth Brian Swartz (served in the Vietnam War — U.S. Navy, U.S. Navy Reserve); resident of Elk Grove; attended Burlingame High School (Burlingame, CA)
- Lloyd Steve Thaler (served in the Korean War — U.S. Army, U .S. Air Force Reserve); attended a rural school in Chouteau Creek Township (Charles Mix County, South Dakota). Mr. Thaler's posthumous diploma was accepted by his daughter Terry Hernandez, a Gold River resident.
- Clyde Coolidge Thornton, Jr. (served in the Vietnam War — U.S. Army, U.S. Army Reserve); resident of Rancho Cordova; attended Peabody High School (Alexandria, VA)
- Albert Raymond Willock (served in WW II — U.S. Army); attended school in Pope County (ARK). Mr. Willock's posthumous diploma was accepted by his son Don Willock, a resident of Herald).
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 158 individuals, including eight posthumous awards. Persons interested in applying for an Operation Recognition diploma for themselves or a qualifying family member may contact SCOE at (916) 228-2416.