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Board Awards Diploma to Veteran at 2023 Ceremony

Local Marine Becomes 201st Operation Recognition Diploma Recipient

Dave Gordon, Lou Soto, and Paul Keefer

Marine Corps veteran Louis “Lou” Soto (holding diploma) is congratulated by Superintendent Gordon (left) and Board President Paul Keefer.

Local Marine Corps veteran Louis “Lou” Soto was presented with a high school diploma at Tuesday night’s Sacramento County Board of Education meeting. The sharply dressed veteran wore the medals he earned in service to the country as he accepted his hard-earned diploma from Board President Paul Keefer. Fighting back tears, Soto stepped to the podium and thanked the trustees for providing this opportunity.

The high school diploma was presented through SCOE’s Operation Recognition program, adopted by the Board of Education in 2001 to retroactively honor U.S. veterans and Japanese American citizens who missed graduating with their high school classes due to wartime circumstances.

Soto’s wife, Lynn, first submitted the Operation Recognition diploma application as a surprise, and she attended the meeting to see it presented. “I always knew it was important to Lou, something he always wished that he had,” explained Lynn. “When he came home (from the war), he had to work and support his family so there were many things that got in the way of him going back to school.

Soto attended Rio Linda High School for two years prior to enlisting with the U. S. Marines in November 1968. During his 18 months of service, Soto was stationed in Vietnam. His military honors include a National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Rifle Marksman Badge, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, and Good Conduct Medal. Following his service in Vietnam, Soto transferred back to the Sacramento area, serving in the Marine Corps Reserve.

About Operation Recognition in Sacramento County

Operation Recognition high school diplomas are authorized by the California Education Code (§ 51430–§ 51442). Since the program’s start in Sacramento County, 201 diplomas have been awarded; 14 of those have been presented posthumously to surviving family members of veterans and Japanese American internees. Those interested in applying for an Operation Recognition diploma for themselves or a qualifying family member should call (916) 228-2416.

Board posing with Lou Soto and family

The Sacramento County Board of Education, posing with Soto and his family, has now awarded 201 Operation Recognition diplomas.

Lou Soto posing with family members

Soto’s family joined him at the ceremony, helping him celebrate his accomplishment.