Veterans can get their diplomas

Program targets vets of WWII, Korea and Vietnam

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More than 60 years ago, Walt Cisar dropped out of high school, convinced he knew more than his teachers.

A few years later, the Army drafted him.

He became a mechanic and served in the Pacific during World War II. He managed to "get in the way of some shrapnel," he said, and earned a Purple Heart.

After his return to Colorado, Cisar married a school teacher in Cañon City. It always bothered her that he didn't have a high school diploma.

But Cisar is finally earning his diploma through Operation Recognition, a program offered by the Colorado Board of Veterans Affairs to award high school diplomas to veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam who didn't earn theirs before they served.

"I think this is a great honor for the veterans to do this," said Johnny Garcia, Moffat County veteran service officer.

The deadline to apply for the program is Oct. 21, but Garcia said he has received only three applications, one from Cisar and the others from Earl Martin and Theodore Stroh.

Veterans must apply for a diploma in the county where they last attended high school. Relatives of deceased veterans can apply for diplomas to be awarded posthumously.

The program is free, and it takes no more than two minutes to fill out an application, Garcia said.

The veteran service office figured World War II veterans would benefit most from the program.

"When they (Japanese) attacked Pearl Harbor ... I said I'm quitting school. I'm going to fight," Garcia said.

It's an important and urgent recognition of the nation's three million surviving World War II vets who die at a rate of 1,500 a day, he said.

The Moffat County School District has been supportive of the effort, he said.

The school will be awarding diplomas with the traditional ceremony of pomp and circumstance during a Veterans Day celebration Nov. 13.

Because he's 80 and retired, Cisar said he wasn't sure what he would do with his diploma besides hang it on his wall.

Because he operated his own businesses, most people didn't know he didn't have a diploma.

But he'll be glad to receive one on Veterans Day.

"I thought it would be nice to have," he said.

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or rgebhart@craigdailypress.com.

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