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Diplomas past due for vets



Published: Sat, July 14, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



All they have to do is ask, and it shall be theirs.

"They" are World War II veterans.

"It" is the diploma that thousands of them didn't get when they dropped out of high school and went off to war.

The other day, Ohio Gov. Bob Taft signed a bill that will allow honorably discharged World War II veterans to apply to their local boards of education for high school diplomas. A similar law was passed in Pennsylvania in June.

The Ohio law is a model of simplicity.

What's required: If the veteran left a public or nonpublic school in any state prior to graduation in order to serve in the armed forces of the United States, was honorably discharged from the service and hasn't received an equivalency diploma of some kind in the meantime, the veteran will be able to apply to his or her local school district for a diploma.

Rules to establish application and verification procedures are being drafted by the governor's office of veterans affairs.

We trust that everything will be in place by next spring. Some school district might want to take the opportunity to recognize this newest class of graduates as part of the commencement ceremony. Others might want to arrange a separate ceremony of some kind.

Throughout Ohio, the number of eligible veterans has been estimated at between 1,000 and 3,000, which means few of the more than 600 districts in the state will have more than a handful of veteran graduates. But each and every one deserves recognition.

The law also provides for the family of a deceased veteran to apply for a posthumous diploma.

Inspiration: Gov. Taft signed the bill in Marietta, in recognition of the efforts of Butch Badgett, a former commander of the Marietta Sons of the American Legion, who read about other states taking similar actions and suggested the Ohio bill to state Rep. Nancy Hollister, R-Marietta. His father, James S. Badgett, 79, left Marietta High School in 1941 in the middle of his senior year when he joined the U.S. Navy.

When he returned home, there was marriage, a son, work and no time to return to high school. "I think it's wonderful," James Badgett said. "It is something I never had that I really wanted."

Ohio and 19 other states now have enacted diploma provisions. The other 30 should follow suit in short order. The veterans aren't getting any younger, and who knows, some of them might want to plan a prom.




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