Veterans who never got to complete their high school education because of their military service received their diplomas this year.
In Monterey County, California, Operation Recognition Veterans Diploma Project was launched in 2019 after the county's Office of Education changed its diploma policy. In total, five war veterans received their diplomas this year decades after their schooling and service.
"Many of our veterans tell this story of they were on track to graduate and then the conflict arose and they just had this sense of service," said Dr. Deneen Guss, Monterey County Superintendent of Schools.
Milton Mocettini is one of the recipients and the call of duty was part of the Soledad native's story.
"I lied about my age. I was 16, and I said I was 17, and I got on an oiler and I was overseas in the Pacific," Mocettini said.
When the Navy Seaman First Class returned home, he started working, first in Salinas Valley agriculture and then for Pacific Gas & Electric for 40 years. Mocettini got married to his wife Wanda of 67 years and the two raised four children, but the veteran never got his diploma.
When he got the call six months ago after the diploma policy changed, he made an appointment to get his diploma all these years later.
"I was finally proud that I got a diploma. I used to get called you know a dumb jerk, didn't even get a diploma, but no I was proud of it," said Mocettini.
Monterey County officials partnered with the Veterans Transition Center to find the five veterans honored. They range in age from 73 to 95 and Guss said it was an honor to give each a diploma.
"As I handed that diploma to each and every veteran, many of them just went to tears —literally cried — and your heart is just touched, and you realize how much earning that high school diploma meant to them," Guss said.
2020 Operation Recognition Veterans Diploma Project Recipients
- Delbert Wermuth, Jr., Carmel High School, World War II and Korean War, Marines USMCR III(b) and Navy Seaman First Class
- James Nannie, Seaside High School, Vietnam War, Army Sgt. E
- Milton John Mocettini, Gonzales High School, World War II, Navy Seaman First Class
- Jess Estrada, Salinas High School, Korean War, Navy SH2
- Francis John Rubbo, Gonzales High School, World War II, Navy Fireman First Class