Operation Recognition Awards Vets Belated High School Diplomas
Spectrum staff writer
For most of his life, Fair Oaks resident Marvin Dowd never felt he needed his high school diploma, especially since he already had his G.E.D. and had taken courses at American River College, the University of Maryland and University of South Carolina.
“But the situation popped up, and I said I’d like to get it now,” Dowd, 73, said at the Operation Recognition commencement ceremony on May 24 at the Sacramento Hilton.
“It’s something I originally applied for in Japan back in 1957. I passed my G.E.D. there. I came home on leave and asked the high school I was in if I could get a diploma with the G.E.D. They said, ‘No.’”
But Operation Recognition said yes to Dowd, and 29 other belated graduates at its first commencement for 2005.
Operation Recognition, sponsored by the Sacramento County Office of Education, awards genuine high school diplomas to veterans of World War II and the Korean War who left school early to join the armed forces and meet eligibility guidelines. Diplomas are also awarded to those who left high school to live in Japanese internment camps.
Dowd learned about Operation Recognition when Tammy Sanchez of the Sacramento County Board of Education came to a Marine Corps Legion meeting and explained what the program was about.
After submitting the necessary paperwork, Dowd received a phone call informing him that, after 56 years of waiting, he would get his high school diploma.
“I think it’s wonderful,” said Louise Dowd, Marvin’s wife. “He was very emotional when he found out that he would qualify, so I was just very happy for him.”
Once the ceremony ended and he had his new diploma in hand, Dowd already knew where it would be displayed.
“I have a huge amount of military things displayed in our family room, this will join all of that somewheres there,” Dowd said. “But I’ll make Louise dig her diploma out and put it with mine!”
David W. Gordon, Sacramento Superintendent of Schools, was impressed with his first Operation Recognition ceremony, saying, “It’s heartwarming and a small thing we can do to pay back a big debt and I’m thrilled that we’re able to do it. And I’m thrilled that the family members get to see their loved ones get a diploma.”
Dowd was born in Mettar, Ga., and raised in Kissimmee, Fla. He left school at age 17 in 1949 to join the U.S. Marine Corps. He was sent to Korea in 1951, where he was wounded on Horseshoe Ridge and was awarded the Silver Star. After being wounded again, he was hospitalized for four months and sent back to the United States.
Dowd’s 23-year stint in the Marines included tours of duty in Vietnam between 1965 and 1969.
“I was part of the first large operation over there,” Dowd said. “We don’t like to talk about it. The operation was called ‘Blue Star’ and 6,000 communists were killed.”
After leaving the service in June 1972, Dowd worked for the U.S. Postal Service until his retirement in 1994. He said that if Operation Recognition hadn’t come along, he probably wouldn’t have pursued that elusive diploma.
“What I’m trying to do now is get the word out about this,” Dowd said. “I’d like to see other people get their diplomas too. It’s a very good way to say, ‘Thank you,’ and we appreciate it.”
Besides Dowd, other diploma recipients included Oliveiro Avis, George Combs, Cleveland Cushing, Clifford Fleischbein, August Heinitz, Mike Ingle, John McNair, Toyoko Nakatogawa, Frank Nickelson, Raymond Rodriguez, Clarence Schroeder, Jimmy Sinetos, and Earl Strauch, Sacramento.
Judge Albert Jr., Jack Criswell, Paul Hamilton, and Arthur Smith, Folsom; William Egan and Charles Kelly, Fair Oaks; Thomas Ferrel and Franklin McClure, Orangevale; Jay Gastelum and John Koenick, Rancho Cordova; William Hall and Franklin Puckett, Elk Grove; Kenneth DeSouza, West Sacramento; Jay Shifflette, Carmichael; Sumiko Washino Sumida, Roseville; and Henry Thienes, Loomis.For information about Operation Recognition, contact the Sacramento County Office of Education at (916) 228-2449 or visit www.scoe.net/org.