To enthusiastic cheers and applause, five individuals were awarded long overdue high school diplomas in a ceremony held May 21 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.
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 West Campus High School Blues Combo provided music for the reception, and a flag ceremony presented by the Marine Corps League of Folsom Color Guard opened the event.
Board President Greg Geeting conducted a brief meeting of the Board, during which Trustees unanimously voted to bestow diplomas.
Student speaker Tara Cravens, a junior from Mesa Verde High School, in the San Juan Unified School District, gave a special tribute to veterans who made sacrifices during times of war by reading her award-winning essay based on the theme "How Ordinary Citizens Can Honor Veterans." The essay earned her first place, and a $500 college scholarship, in the SCOE Operation Recognition Essay Contest sponsored by SAFE Credit Union.
"The more aware veterans are of the people standing behind them every step of the way, the more encouraged, motivated, and thankful they will be for doing what they have done or are doing," Cravens said.
Trustees presented diplomas to the following individuals:
- Arthur Flores Aleman left Wasco High School (in Wasco, California) to enlist in the Navy at age 17. He served aboard the USS Cleveland LPD. Sent to Vietnam, he earned the Vietnam Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, and the Combat Action Ribbon. After his service, he attended Sacramento City College through a carpentry program apprenticeship. Until retirement he worked as a Union Carpenter. Mr. Aleman is a resident of Sacramento.
- Douglas Jon Borges enlisted in the Air Force at age 17, straight from St. Vincent High School in Vallejo. He has the distinction of having spent his 18th birthday at Iwo Jima—and having served during World War II, the Korean War, AND the Vietnam War. By the time he ended his military service as a Communications Center Operations Supervisor, he earned the rank of Chief Master Sergeant. He earned his GED and served many years as a Sacramento County Sheriff's Deputy. Mr. Borges lives in Citrus Heights.
- Edward Charles Chop was a student at Textile High School (in New York City) at the time of his enlistment. He served in the U.S. Marines during the Korean War. After his discharge, he worked as a plumber for many years right up until his retirement. Mr. Chop is a resident of Walnut Grove.
- William Raymond De La Ossa attended Lindberg Senior High School (in Sappington, Missouri) before beginning service with the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. One of his assignments was working as a Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic attached to a motor squad with the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colorado. He earned the National Defense Medal and the Sharpshooter Badge with an M-16 Rifle Bar. After leaving the service he used his mechanical skills at a manufacturing plant. He earned a GED and worked many years in Sacramento as a mechanic. He has since moved to Somerset, in El Dorado County, where he still works.
- Jerry LeRoy Dodge was a sophomore in South Bend High School (in Washington State) when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He served aboard the USS Kaskaskia, a tanker that refueled ships engaged in the Korean War. Among his recognitions are awards for National Defense Service Medal, the China Service Medal, the United Nations Korea Medal, and Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation. He later served in four years in active reserve.
- Larry Dennis Hayes, II attended Hillside High School (in Durham, North Carolina) for one day before enlisting in the Army. Mr. Hayes served several years stateside during the Vietnam War, mostly as a cook but also trained as a field radio mechanic. He was awarded the National Defense Service Medal, Sharpshooter (M-16) Rifle Marksmanship Badge, and was qualified as a Hand Grenade Expert. After serving, he enrolled in junior college at both American River and Yuba campuses. He eventually became an instructor of microcomputer technology and worked for EDS as a network engineer. He also has worked as an alcohol and drug counselor in Auburn. Mr. Hayes lives in Rio Linda.
- Anthony Luis Lopez was attending Huntington Beach High School (in Huntington Beach, California) at the time he entered the Army. Stateside, he served as a mess cook. Once in Vietnam, his assignment with the 101st Airborne Division changed to truck driver. After the military he worked as a house painter. Mr. Lopez earned his GED through the Folsom Cordova Unified School District. He works in the Security Department at Kaiser Hospital and currently lives in Carmichael.
- Fred Stilwell attended Elk Grove High School before enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. Mr. Stilwell started initially as a cook and ended up as a corporal when he transferred to the Marine Corps Forces Reserve. He served at the Mobile Construction Battalion and was awarded the U.S. Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal and the National Defense Service Medal. In his civilian life, he earned a California Contractor's License and has his own plumbing business. He resides in the Florin area of Sacramento.
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 171 individuals, including eight posthumous awards. Those interested in applying for an Operation Recognition diploma for themselves or a qualifying family member may contact SCOE at (916) 228-2416.