Vets receive honorary diplomas

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 6, 2003

William Vance fought for his country during World War II.

He worked hard all his life, and he and his wife, Irene, raised three successful, happy daughters.

But after the war, the 76-year-old Suffolk man, who in 1942 dropped out of his West Virginia high school to enlist in the U.S. Navy, never returned to earn his high school diploma.

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But all that changed on Christmas Day when Vance opened a gift from his daughter, Patricia CoCo. Thanks to her efforts, he was awarded an honorary high school diploma from the Virginia Department of Education.

The state’s honorary diploma program recognize the life experiences of veterans who were unable to complete their high school education because of service in the armed forces during war time, said Julie Grimes, VDOE spokesperson.

The General Assembly approved the honorary diplomas for World War II veterans in 2001.

Then last year, legislators extended the program to include veterans of the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Since the programs started, more than 1,000 veterans have received diplomas, Grimes said. Last year alone, 332 diplomas went to World War II veterans; 63, to Korean War veterans; and 47 to Vietnam veterans.

Four other Suffolk veterans also received diplomas this year, including: Anthony M. Doxey, World War II; Linwood U. Holland, World War II; Roger D. &uot;Dale&uot; Crittenden, Vietnam; and Robert E. Lawrence, World War II.

Also, Suffolk resident Cherry Ashley received an honorary diploma for her father, World War II veteran Carroll E. Carlton of Norfolk.

Receiving the diploma was an emotional moment for Vance.

&uot;We gave it to him on Christmas Day with just the family here,&uot; said Coco. &uot;The whole family was in tears.&uot;

Growing up, she remembers her father sandwiching two extra jobs between his workdays at Newport News Shipbuilding. Although he spent spare time studying for his GED, his family obligations prevented him from studying past an 11th-grade level.

&uot;Education was that important to him,&uot; CoCo said. &uot;When we were growing up, he put school above and beyond everything else.&uot;

Crittenden, who dropped out of John Yeates High School in 1965 to head for Vietnam, said he felt the recognition was important.

Though he received his GED while working at the shipyard, he still wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to get a diploma.

&uot;I think it is an important thing,&uot; said Crittenden, who lives in the village of the same name. &uot;It means they recognize that we gave up something, made some sacrifices to do what we needed to do for the country.

&uot;I felt like it was the right thing to do at the time and I still do,&uot; he said. &uot;I don’t regret it. I’d go again if I was able and 30 years younger.&uot;

Veterans can apply for an honorary diploma by submitting a statement to the Board of Education describing their military service and their last school attended, along with an affirmation that they were unable to finish high school after leaving the military. An application form is available on the board’s Web site.