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School district honors veterans with diplomas

By ERICA RODRIGUEZ
Nov. 18, 2010 at 5:18 a.m.

Will Martin receives an honorary high school diploma by the Victoria Independent School District Board of Trustees on Wednesday. Martin served the NAVY from 1965-1969, four other veterans were also honored.

ONE MORELee Roy Reed, a former Marine who served for four years, was not present, but his diploma was presented to a family member Thursday evening.

John Alvarez already had his high school class ring and planned to graduate from Stroman High School when he was drafted to serve a tour in Vietnam in 1968.

He later earned a Purple Heart, Bronze Star and a GED certificate during his four years in the military, but the 60-year-old lost hope of ever earning a diploma.

"It was something you dream about," he said. "When I went in the service, it was like something was missing, and when I got out of the service, it was right there, but I didn't have it in my hands. Now that I have it in my hands, it's something really nice."

Alvarez was among five local veterans honored for the first time at the school board's regular meeting with an honorary high school diploma. The five would have earned a diploma but were serving in the military instead.

The veterans earned the honorary degrees because of a Texas law that gives World War II, Korean and Vietnam-era veterans a diploma from the school district where they would have graduated.

"Tonight we are proud to honor five such veterans who never had the opportunity to walk the stage at their high school graduation because they were serving our country instead," said Tami Keeling, board president, shortly before presenting the diplomas. "We thank them for their honorable service."

The audience gave a standing ovation as each of the veterans walked to take their diploma.

"There was always something missing without that high school diploma," said Flourencio Sauseda, a former Navy sailor who traveled from Corsicana to be in the ceremony. "It feels complete. That little missing thing is no longer missing."

Why is earning a high school diploma so important to you?

"It's something that I can leave for my children. It's something I can leave for my grandkids, and hopefully I can inspire them to do better than grandpa."

- John Alvarez, Victoria resident, former Army sergeant, served 1968-1972

"I want to set an example for all my grandkids. Even though I didn't finish regular high school, I did get my GED and I did go to college. Hopefully I'll set an example for them to finish school."

- Flourencio Sauseda, Corsicana, former Navy petty officer first class, served 1971-1981

"Just having the certificate itself. Just like when you graduate from college, you get your certificate. It's an honorary (certificate). It's not the real thing, but still, it's the certificate itself."

- Roberto Martinez, Victoria resident, retired Army master sergeant, served 1972-1996

"I just feel like I ought to have a high school diploma. I always wanted to get it, but I quit to go into the service."

- Demetrio Gutirrez, Victoria resident, former Army engineer, served 1947-1952

"There's two reasons: One's for my grandchildren and No. 2, for all my brothers and sisters at the American Legion, who worked so hard to do things for veterans."

- Will Martin, former Navy steelworker, served 1965-1969

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