Twelve veterans of America's wars who entered military service before they could finish their high school educations received diplomas Friday in a ceremony here.
Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte and Francis J. McLaughlin, assistant deputy director of the state Office of Veterans Affairs, presented the diplomas as part of the state's "Operation Recognition" program.
Although 22 veterans living in DelMonte's Niagara County Assembly district have been granted diplomas in the program, 10 were unable to attend Friday's gathering in American Legion Cadille Post 1664.
"All the diplomas are coming from your original school districts," DelMonte, D-Lewiston, told the veterans.
The diplomas are not granted automatically. Veterans or their family members must apply to the state Education Department and show a document, such as a certificate of service or release, to prove they served.
Friday's recipients left high school before graduation to fight in World War II, Korea or Vietnam. With the all-volunteer military and new entry rules, "Operation Recognition will eventually fade away," DelMonte said.
Ernest H. Ganshaw Jr., 76, of Wilson, was thrilled by his diploma. "It really surprised me. It pleased me no end," the retired chemical worker said.
He was attending Wilson High School in 1953 when the Army grabbed him and sent him to Korea. He was a corporal in an artillery unit, but the North Koreans agreed to an armistice a few weeks after Ganshaw arrived.
"They heard he was there and they gave up," joked Ganshaw's brother Sam.
Mario Ricotta of Niagara Falls received his diploma on his 82nd birthday Friday. He joined the Navy in June 1945, near the end of World War II.|
He later became a stationary engineer with the Niagara Falls School District, retiring in 1995. "There's a lot of satisfaction in getting your diploma directly from the State of New York," Ricotta said.
Allen H. Garlock, 78, of Niagara Falls, was attending Tonawanda High School in 1951. He had just received a draft notice when he decided to join the Marine Corps so he would have his choice of which branch of the service to be in.
He served 13 months of combat duty in Korea, whose winter warfare was infamous.
"It got down to 40 below zero. They'd start the trucks every two hours to make sure they didn't freeze up," Garlock said.
He founded and operated Garlock's Auto Wrecking in the Town of Niagara for 45 years. His wife of 53 years, Patricia, signed him up for his diploma.
She said, "Education to me is important. He should have it. He deserves it. All these guys do."