17 veterans get diplomas

Ray Wagner grew up with a "strict military man" for a father, who pushed him to enlist in the Army at age 13.

He served twice, the first time during World War II and the second during the Korean War.

He never went back to school.

His formal education never went beyond the sixth grade.

"It's a handicap," he said. "I can see how (an education) would have helped, but I lived."

Nearly 60 years after he would have graduated from high school, Wagner finally received his diploma Saturday night.

One of 17 local World War II, Korea and Vietnam veterans to be a part of the national Operation Recognition program, Wagner was honored at a ceremony at the Elks Club on Saturday night.

Moffat County High School Principal Jane Krogman and Board of Education President John Wellman presented the diplomas.

"The beauty of these diplomas is that I've never had to discipline any of these gentlemen," Krogman said.

The recipients had some teasing of their own to do as they posed for photos for their wives and the media.

"I'll see you at McDonald's flipping hamburgers," Marine Jim Meineke said.

When Vincent Bingham was asked how he felt after finally having a diploma to hang on his wall, he responded, "How am I supposed to feel? More intelligent?"

Bingham was drafted into the Army during his junior year of high schoo.

He said he never felt the need to finish his requirements.

"I don't really have an excuse for that. I just didn't do it," he said.

Army veteran Walt Cisar could relate, saying when he got out of the service, he went into business for himself and didn't give much thought to finishing high school.

"I was too busy to do that," he said.

"I had things to do."

Earl Martin went into an agriculture program at the Veterans Affairs school for four years after he was discharged from the Army, but never got his diploma.

"I guess I don't need it but if they're giving them out, I'll take it," he said.

"Besides, I think he earned it," his wife, Laveta, said.

The recipients all seemed proud to receive the recognition, and many continued to find humor in the situation.

Marine Kirby Barber yelled out as he walked back to his seat, diploma in hand, "I graduated one year after my grandson!"

Johnny Garcia, Moffat County veterans service officer, said veterans who were honorably discharged still are welcome to apply for their diplomas. The deadline for graduation with the Moffat County High School Class of 2005 is February.

Families of veterans who have died may also apply. Call Garcia at 824-3246 for more information.

Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031 or mperry@craigdailypress.com.

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