Finishing Unfinished Business
One Illinois high school is granting long-overdue diplomas to several veterans who quit high school in order to serve their country during wartime:
59-year-old Bill Martin quit school when he was a sophomore, joined the Navy and served in Vietnam. Martin said, "When I left school, the last words I heard was 'I'll never make anything of myself.'"It is my understanding that for the first time in many years, the United States Army is again accepting recruits who do not posses high school diplomas or G.E.D.s
Martin did earn a GED, but it bothered him not to have a high school diploma. It was important enough for him to drive from Texas to accept the diploma in person. Martin said, "I quit school. I had to to live with that all my life. Now I can say I got my high school diploma and hang it up with the rest of them."
Martin was one of seven veterans being honored. This is the second time Belleville Township High School, District 201 handed out wartime diplomas since Illinois passed a law allowing public schools to do so.
In 2002, the district passed out diplomas to 23 veterans.
Superintendent Brent Clark said, "For those folks who had to leave and serve the country, this is a way to acknowledge their service for our country and give them a high school diploma they were never able to earn."
For 83-year-old Berthel Parkerson, not having a high school diploma was a problem after serving in the Navy during World War II. Parkerson said, "Many a time I was asked for it and I didn't have it.. applications and things for a job."
Parkerson was only in the 8th grade when he quit school after his mother died. His family is already proud of his accomplishments even without the diploma. When asked, why it was important for him to get the diploma now, Parkerson said, "For my family. For my kids."