Veterans Who Left High School to Enlist Are Finally Honored With Diplomas

Six veterans in California who left high school to serve their country are finally being awarded their diplomas.

“This is just a small way in which we can show our appreciation for the service and sacrifice you made to ensure the safety of a great nation,” said San Bernardino County Superintendent Ted Alejandre during the special graduation ceremony last week.

The veterans left school to serve in the World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

“To me it’s a blessing,” one of the veterans, Willie Thomas, said in an interview with KCBS. “Even at my age, it’s a blessing.”

He said he left school to enlist in the Vietnam War but when he returned, he found it difficult to complete his education.

“Every time I’d go to a class for GED, I’d get orders to go somewhere else,” he explained.

Harry Hay, who joined the Navy as a teenager, agreed that it was hard to move onto civilian life without having completed high school.

“Especially when you go to apply for a job, try to explain,” Hay said.

Frank Guevara of the San Bernardino County Department of Veterans Affairs said he hopes the ceremony will be a small token of thanks to the veterans who risked it all.

“It’s never too late to recognize them for their service,” Guevara said. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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