CANTON — High school graduates across the country typically complete coursework and receive a diploma around age 18, but those who left high school in the mid-20th century to serve as members of the U.S. Armed Forces have a different story.
While the Selective Service and Training Act took effect in October 1940, and thousands of eligible men ages 18 to 65 entered service, thousands more volunteered after the Dec. 7, 1941, attacks on Pearl Harbor, many of whom left high school as the United States entered World War II.
With conflicts peppered throughout 20th-century U.S. military history, the trend of young men volunteering to serve out of high school continued — through World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
To honor the commitments of veterans who did not receive high school diplomas as a result of their military service, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs established Operation Recognition, through which, states can implement the program in partnership with school districts.
In New York, state education law charges the commissioner of education with upholding veteran recognition programs to award high school diplomas to World War II, Korea and Vietnam service members who were “unable, for any reason,” to complete secondary education. The law describes the awarded diplomas as “based on knowledge and experience gained while in service.”
In December, Canton Central School District awarded John H. Conklin a high school diploma for his eight-year stateside service during the Korean War. Mr. Conklin was presented his diploma by Hugh C. Williams High School Principal Doug Dominy and Superintendent Ronald P. Burke.
Other veterans residing in the area can complete a brief, and free, application process to receive their diplomas.
Eligible veterans must have been a member of the U.S. Armed Forces and have been in active duty service for at least one day between Dec. 7, 1941 and Dec. 11, 1946, June 27, 1950 and Jan. 31, 1955, or May 1, 1961 and April 30, 1975.
Applicants must have been honorably discharged and currently be a resident of New York state, though they do not have to provide documentation of attending a school in New York. Only one document is required to complete the process — a copy of the veteran’s certificate of release, discharge from active duty, certificate of service or a letter from a veterans agency affirming service. One of those documents can be brought to any New York state school that issues general or local diplomas.
Veterans possessing a high school equivalency diploma and deceased veterans are also eligible to be recognized for their service. Family members of a deceased veteran who met the eligibility criteria can apply to receive a diploma on behalf of the veteran.