By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
From the early 1940s until the mid-1970s, thousands of men and women across the country put their high school educations on hold and joined the nation’s military effort during three major conflicts.
Instead of marching across a stage to receive a diploma, these individuals were either marching across Europe and the Pacific to take on Germany, Japan and their allies in World War II, or marching against communist troops in Korea’s mountains and plains in the 1950s or Vietnam’s jungles and hills in the 1960s and early 1970s.
The range of dates for eligible service are December 7, 1941 –
January 1, 1946; June 27, 1950 – January 31, 1955, and November 15, 1961 –March 28, 1973.
These former students who set their education aside to fight for the country can now claim either the diploma they earned but did not receive or an honorary diploma, as long as they were Alabama residents when they left school, their military service prevented them from graduating, and they earned an honorable discharge from the military.
Former Escambia County Superintendent of Education Michele McClung brought some details of the statewide program, which was approved by the Alabama Legislature in 2010, to the public during a recent school board meeting.
“This gives any student who left prior to graduation to enlist in World War II, the Korean War or the Vietnam War an opportunity to get their diploma,” McClung said.
Current principals at local schools can verify the veteran’s school records. If those records cannot be located, the veteran may provide adequate documentation, such as a report card, a newspaper clipping or a notarized document with two verifiable sources to prove he or she left school for military service.
McClung noted that families of veterans who lost their lives in combat or who have since died could petition the school of a loved one for such a diploma. Proof of death would also be required.
“Upon verification, the veteran will need to provide a military honorable discharge,” McClung said. “If the veteran is deceased or was killed in action, their next of kin may get the diploma for them. But they need to hurry; there’s a limited time.” She did not specify the time frame, nor does state law stipulate that the diploma must be requested by any certain date.
If a veteran seeking a diploma does not have the appropriate discharge documentation, he or she should contact the county veterans’ service officer for information about how to obtain the necessary papers.
In Escambia County, that person is Gene Moore. Moore is in his office at the satellite courthouse in Atmore from 7:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. He can be reached by phone at 251-368-4223, Extension 115. (For the name and contact information of the service officer in other counties, visit va.alabama.gov/serviceofficer.)
The diploma may be presented to the veteran or veteran’s family at the school’s next scheduled graduation ceremony or at a private ceremony, or it can be mailed, depending upon the wishes of the person or family who will receive it.