Encouraged by enthusiastic applause, three individuals were awarded long overdue high school diplomas in a ceremony held May 20 by the Sacramento County Board of Education. Operation Recognition honors the contributions of veterans and Japanese American citizens who missed completing high school during 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 at the David P. Meaney Education Center for a pre-ceremony reception. The West Campus High School Jazz Band provided music for the reception. The Marine Corps League of Folsom Color Guard opened the event, with the West Campus High School choir singing the national anthem. Board President Jackie Levy conducted a brief meeting of the Board, during which Trustees unanimously voted to bestow diplomas.
Student speaker Anthony Ramos, a junior from El Camino Fundamental High School, in the San Juan Unified School District, gave a special tribute to veterans who made sacrifices during times of war by reading his award-winning essay based on the theme "How Our Veterans Exemplify Courage and Sacrifice." The essay earned him first place, and a $500 college scholarship, in the SCOE Operation Recognition Essay Contest sponsored by SAFE Credit Union.
"Veterans are a great example to all of us. They understood the sacrifices that they would have to endure by going to war and still had the courage to make the choice to serve their country. They should forever be honored for having given of themselves unselfishly," Ramos said.
Trustees presented diplomas to the following individuals:
- David Levant Felt*: The only Operation Recognition diploma recipient to have died in the line of duty, Mr. Felt was killed in action August 17, 1965, in Quang Nam Province, Vietnam. He attended Elk Grove High School before he entered the U.S. Marine Corps. His best friend, Fred Stilwell, joined the U.S. Army at the same time, and received his own diploma through the Operation Recognition program last year. Mr. Stilwell submitted the nomination of Mr. Felt and accepted the diploma on his friend's behalf.
- Benoise Davis Wade: A long-time resident of Sacramento, Mr. Wade attended Rock Jr./Sr. High School in East St. Louis, Illinois prior to his military service. He served as an infantryman in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, when he qualified as a Rifle (M-16A1) and 1st Class Hand Grenade Expert.
- Marcus David Wells, Jr.: In the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, Mr. Wells served as a Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic. He was attending El Camino High School at the time he joined the Army. Mr. Wells is the recipient of the National Defense Service Medal and was classified as a Rifle Expert. He subsequently worked as an Air Conditioning Technician and, for the last 15 years, as a Stationary Engineer for the State of California Department of General Services.
* posthumous award
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 now provided Operation Recognition high school diplomas to 174 individuals, including nine 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.