FORT BRAGG, N.C. - The commanding general of the XVIII Airborne Corps saluted Operation Recognition, a Cumberland County public schools program, which presents high school diplomas to veterans whose service was up until the Vietnam War-era.

"Operation Recognition is just one example of the outstanding support provided to our Soldiers, military Families and veterans by the Fayetteville community," said Lt. Gen. Frank G. Helmick, who is also the Fort Bragg commander.

"Cumberland County Schools work tirelessly to support our military children and the military community," he said. "We cannot thank them enough for their efforts."

Fayetteville Mayor Anthony G. Chavonne echoed the general's plaudits.

"Our veterans deserve so much honor and respect and it speaks well of Cumberland County Public Schools to recognize them this way," he said.

Veterans looking to participate in the program need to provide their discharge paperwork to either the school or a veterans services office, said Dr. Francis L. Till, the county school superintendent. Applicants must have an honorable discharge.

Till, who supported a similar program in his previous job in Florida, said he thinks about his own late father who left school after the eighth grade and went on to fight in World War II.

The program, authorized by North Carolina law, is an opportunity to honor veterans and send a positive message to current students, Till said. "These veterans don't need the diploma, but they want it because of what it means."

Shannon J. Shurko, the county's military support liaison and the program's director, said, "I recently spoke to a retired command sergeant major with a shaky voice, who wasn't sure if I was the right person to contact - I got chills."

After completing an application with the school department and providing the proper documentation, such as discharge papers, Shurko said she submits the package to the federal Veterans Administration for verification.

"The verification process takes roughly 30 days, so she will have to cut off applications at the end of September," she said.

Sharon S. Sanders, the county's director of veterans services, said she has been able to help veterans with the process, including one specific Vietnam War veteran.

"He was so happy to apply and to be told he can get his diploma," she said. "I think this is a wonderful program."

Shurko said she expects almost 20 veterans to participate in the ceremony, which will be held at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum after the city's Nov. 6 Veterans Day parade.
"With Fayetteville being America's hometown, this is a great way to show veterans that we love and support them," Chavonne said.

Shurko said most of the graduates are from the Vietnam War-ear, but some have service that stretches back to World War II.

At the ceremony, the veterans will be recognized by the superintendent, the mayor and other dignitaries, Shurko said. "An anonymous donor has sponsored catering for the reception afterwards."

On the application there is a space to request reserved guest seat tickets for the ceremony, some of the graduates have requested anywhere from two to 12 tickets, she said. Some have requested none.

Till said this year the idea is to have a large ceremony to take care of the backlog of veteran graduates.

In the future, there may be group ceremonies, but the department is also willing to award diplomas to veterans individually, Till said.

More information is available by calling Shannon J. Shurko at 678-7009.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16