The Solano County Office of Education awarded 11 high school diplomas — 7 to living veterans and 4 to their next of kin — during their annual Operation Recognition (OpRec) ceremony on March 5, 2020, in Fairfield, Calif.
OpRec is a nationwide program that honors and awards honorary high school diplomas to U.S. veterans and Japanese-Americans who could not formally graduate from high school due to wartime circumstances.
This year’s honorees featured 3 World War II veterans connected with American Legion Manuel L. Quezon Post 603 of Vallejo, Calif., which helps organize this annual event.
According to the California Association of County Veterans Service Officers 2017 Annual Report, 17 percent of World War II veterans, 11 percent of Korean War veterans and 5 percent of Vietnam War veterans do not have a high school diploma.
Post 603 member U.S. Navy retired Rear Adm. Thomas Cropper, president of California State University Maritime Academy in Vallejo, gave the keynote address.
“It’s impossible to adequately thank these men for their service,” Cropper said. “It is a high honor for all of us to thank them and their families for a legacy of service that they’ve left us, one born of their unbroken spirit, courage and patriotism.”
James Moises is the late father of Post 603 life member Warlito Moises. James was a radio operator for the Philippine Scouts who provided vital intelligence for the U.S. Army Forces. He was a Bataan Death March survivor, a prisoner of war for two years and is a recipient of the Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal.
Post 603 member Luther Hendricks first tried to join the U.S. Marine Corps in 1941, but they were not taking African-Americans until 1942. Hendricks trained at the segregated and sub-standard facilities of Montford Point, now called Camp Johnson, next to Camp Lejeune. He fought in Guam, Iwo Jima, the Philippines and Saipan and is a recipient of the Montford Point Marines Congressional Gold Medal.
Sylvester Hood, like Hendricks, fought with the 51st and 52nd USMC Defense Battalions, regarded as among the best gunners in the Marine Corps. He is also a recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal.
Post 603 helped honor both Hendricks and Hood aboard USNS Montford Point while being repaired by the Mare Island Dry Dock. Then-Vallejo Mayor Osby Davis declared March 15, 2015, as Montford Point Marines’ Day.
The next OpRec is scheduled for March 2021 around National Vietnam War Veterans Day.