To enthusiastic cheers and applause, five individuals were awarded long overdue high school diplomas in a ceremony held May 19 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 Jazz Band provided music for the reception, the West Campus High chorus sang the National Anthem, and a flag ceremony presented by the Marine Corps League of Folsom Color Guard opened the event. Board President Brian Rivas conducted a brief meeting of the Board, during which Trustees unanimously voted to bestow diplomas.
Student speaker Carina Quiroz, a senior from Franklin High School, in the Elk Grove Unified School District, gave a special tribute to those who made sacrifices during times of war by reading her award-winning essay based on the theme "How We Can Thank Our Veterans." The essay earned her first place, and a $500 college scholarship, in the SCOE Operation Recognition Essay Contest sponsored by SAFE Credit Union. SAFE Credit Union Education Manager Amanda Merz presented Quiroz with the check.
"Actions speak louder than words. We must thank our veterans by making the best out of the freedom they fought for. Be a good person. Help those in need. Give back to the community. Make this country a better place for having lived in it," Ms. Quiroz said.
Trustees presented diplomas to the following individuals:
- James L. Davis, now a resident of Rancho Cordova, was attending James Monroe High School in Bronx, New York, when he began military service in the U.S. Navy. He served as a Signalman Second Class during the Vietnam War, and was posted at the Air Naval Station in Alameda. He earned the Gold Wreath Award, the Navy Good Conduct Medal (twice), the National Defense Service Medal, and the Battle Efficiency "E" Award. In addition, he played point guard for the All-Navy basketball team.
- Clifford M. Kanzler, a resident of Orangevale, left Limon High School in Limon, Colorado, to join the U.S. Navy. He served during the Korean War as a mechanical assembler. His last posting was to Naval Station Kodiak, in Alaska.
- Joseph "Charlie" Martinez, is a resident of Elk Grove. At the time he joined the U.S. Marine Corps, he was attending Woodland High School. He served in the Vietnam War with Marine G2 Military Intelligence. He was responsible for classified documents, materials and communications, had top secret clearance, and was awarded the Good Conduct Medal. His last posting was to the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro in Southern California.
- Daniel L. Pinola, a native of Sacramento, attended Grant Union High School when he joined the U.S. Air Force. He began his military service during the Vietnam War and stayed 20 more years, serving in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. In 1994, he retired from the Air Force as a Technical Sergeant. Among his many awards are the Air Force Commendation Medal, the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Valor, the Good Conduct Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal. He went on to earn a G.E.D. and an Associate of Science Degree in Computer-Aided Drafting and Design Engineering Technology from Missouri Southern State University.
- The late Peter Rincon, a former student at Sacramento High School, served during World War II in the U.S. Army. He was a cannoneer in the 82nd Field Artillery Battalion, as well as qualifying as an M-1 rifle marksman, seeing service in the Pacific campaign. He received the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal, the Philippine Liberation Ribbon, World War II Victory Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, and the Army of Occupation Medal. After his discharge from the Army, Mr. Rincon continued his service—as a civilian—performing electrical instrument repair at McClellan Air Force Base.
The County Board of Education unanimously adopted Operation Recognition in October 2001 and has since expanded the program to include recognition of qualifying Vietnam War veterans. Operation Recognition high school diplomas are authorized by the California Education Code (§ 51430 and § 51440).
The Board of Education has provided Operation Recognition high school diplomas to 179 individuals, including ten posthumous awards. Those interested in applying for the Operation Recognition diploma for themselves or a qualifying family member may contact SCOE at (916) 228-2416. The next award ceremony is scheduled for May 17, 2016.