Veterans who didn't finish high school to be granted high honorary diplomas


RIVERSIDE -- In 1945, while his high school classmates were hunched over textbooks, working to earn their diplomas, Ken Patric was fighting in World War II. He had left school as a sophomore to enlist and was stationed in England.

Fast-forward to today, and the 77-year-old Murrieta resident is now eligible to receive a high school diploma retroactively through the Riverside County Office of Education for his sacrifice.

On Wednesday, the county office announced the start of its "Operation Recognition," in which county residents who did not complete high school because of military service in World War II, the Korean War or the Vietnam War can receive a diploma.

Those interned in a Japanese-American relocation camp, as well as vets who received some sort of high school certificate after the war, such as one that can be earned by taking a General Educational Development test, known as the GED, are also eligible for the diploma.

The application period runs through March 23, and a ceremony has been scheduled for May 16 to honor those who apply and qualify for the diploma. It is the first year the office of education has offered the diploma, but the effort will be repeated in the years to come, its top official said.

"The idea is to honor these fellow Americans for their service," said Dave Long, Riverside County superintendent of schools. "The potential recipients had their education interrupted to serve this nation, and we want to show our gratitude and now honor them these years later."

The effort is modeled after other programs implemented across the state and nation.

Patric said it sounded like a great idea, and that he would probably apply.

Patric left his Rochester, N.Y., high school with several other friends who wanted to join the armed services, mostly compelled by a patriotic call to duty to help the country as it fought the Germans, but also because of other benefits, such as the GI Bill, he said.

He joined the U.S. Army Air Corps and served from 1945 to 1949.

"I never thought twice about leaving high school," he said. "I wanted to join."

After his service, Patric entered the reserves and received some sort of "high school certificate" from the state of New York so he could attend college, but it was not a diploma, he said.

Patric, second vice commander of American Legion Post 852 of Temecula and Murrieta Valley, said he thinks several of his fellow vets would be eligible and interested in applying for the diploma.

Decades ago, men and women often left high school to join the armed services for a variety of reasons, said Pete Ramos, Riverside County's American Legion District 21's first vice commander.

In addition to patriotism, escaping poverty often was a factor for those from the South, he said. In other cases, those who didn't care for high school saw the armed services as a way out, he said.

But whatever the reason a veteran did not receive his or her diploma and instead was found on the front lines of battle, "Operation Recognition" is a worthy cause and long overdue, Ramos said.

"It's not going to do them any good now, but it would give them the honor of having it," he said.

-- Contact staff writer Jennifer Kabbany at (951) 676-4315, Ext. 2625, or


The Riverside County Office of Education is offering high school diplomas to county residents who missed completing high school due to military service in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, or due to internment in World War II Japanese-American relocation camps. Family members may also submit an application to recognize a qualifying individual posthumously. A May 16 ceremony has been scheduled to honor those who apply and qualify for the diploma.

How and Where: Obtain an Operation Recognition diploma application by calling the Riverside County Office of Education at (951) 826-6570, or by downloading a copy of the application form from its Web site:

Eligibility: Those who apply must be a resident of Riverside County and a veteran with proof of an honorable discharge with military service during World War II or the Korean or Vietnam wars. Japanese-American citizens must show proof of internment in a WWII relocation camp. Veterans who received a General Educational Development certificate, or GED, are also eligible.

For information, contact: Tracey Rivas at (951) 826-6570 or, or Rick Peoples at (951) 826-6642 or