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PENNSYLVANIA Program honors veterans of WWII with diplomas



Published: Sun, August 26, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



To be eligible for Operation Recognition, veterans must meet several requirements.

By HAROLD GWIN

VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU

HERMITAGE, Pa. -- Pennsylvania World War II veterans who left high school to serve in the armed forces and never went back to school may now be able to get a diploma from their old high school.

The state Legislature has passed a bill creating "Operation Recognition," a program allowing school districts to set up programs to award diplomas to those veterans.

The legislation deals only with World War II veterans.

Some veterans are starting to make inquiries.

"I've already had a couple of phone calls," said Karen Ionta, superintendent of the Hermitage School District.

"We have two individuals who called the school requesting we look into this -- and we will," said Superintendent Richard Rubano of the Farrell Area School District.

Notices sent: Jim Smartz, director of Mercer County's Department of Veterans Affairs, said he sent notices of the legislation to all school districts in Mercer County.

The bill says school districts "may" do this. It doesn't require them to do it, Smartz said, adding that no one really knows how many veterans might be eligible.

Rubano said he would like to see some sort of guidelines for the program but Smartz said the legislation is open.

Eligibility: It allows each school district to establish its own criteria.

The bill only says that, to be eligible, the veteran must have an honorable discharge and have served in the United States military during World War II between Sept. 16, 1940, and Dec. 31, 1946.

The veterans must have attended high school between 1937 and 1946 and been members of a graduation class during the years 1941 and 1950 but not have graduated due to entry into military service.

School boards may also make posthumous diploma awards.

"I've received three or four phone calls," Smartz said, explaining that he referred callers to the superintendents or principals of their old schools.

If a particular school is no longer in existence due to a merger or consolidation, the veterans can approach the successor district, he said.

Application process: Ionta said Hermitage already has prepared an application process for Hermitage veterans.

All that is needed now are the names of those eligible for "Operation Recognition," she said.

Hermitage will have a special commencement for them and award their diplomas, probably in the spring, Ionta said.

Veterans or their surviving relatives that are interested in the program should contact her office, she said.

gwin@vindy.com




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