Calif. veterans prepare to receive diplomas
Daily Press, Victorville, Calif.
HESPERIA, Calif. — Reynaldo “Marty” Martinez said a mixture of joy and emptiness swept through his heart when his children received their diplomas from Sultana High School.
The 66-year-old former Marine earned his GED in the early 1970s and went on to obtain a degree in business at L.A. Harbor College, but not receiving his high school diploma has haunted him for years.
On Monday, Martinez and three other Victor Valley veterans will receive their diplomas in a ceremony hosted by the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools.
The veterans will be a part of the fifth graduating class in the Operation Recognition Veterans Diploma Project event, which is held in conjunction with the county Department of Veterans Affairs. The program gives people whose education was cut short by war service or internment in a Japanese-American relocation camp an opportunity to earn their diplomas.
The local residents are among the seven World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans who will receive their diplomas Monday.
Joining Martinez will be Ronald Nutt (Vietnam — Army) and Angel Salazar (World War II, Korea and Vietnam — Army and Air Force), both of Victorville, with Nelson Draper (World War II — Marines), of Hesperia, who will be awarded the diploma posthumously.
Martinez, who retired as correctional officer with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and currently works as a para-educator for the county’s superintendent of schools, said Monday’s graduation ceremony will fill a huge void in his life.
“I couldn’t finish high school because I had to work in the fields picking cotton, onions, potatoes and other produce,” said Martinez, who lives in Hesperia and would have graduated from A.C. Jones High School in Beeville, Texas. “Then I was drafted in the ’60s, and that was the rest of that story.”
Nutt, 64, was drafted into the Army in 1970, right after he quit high school with thoughts of entering the military.
“I would have graduated from Bakersfield High School, but I had some personal issues to deal with so I quit,” said Nutt, who lives in Victorville with his wife of 43 years, Phyllis.
Nutt said not having a high school diploma has kept him from many jobs over the years, even though he has nearly 30 college credits under his belt and years of work experience.
“I used to counsel with the California Youth Authority, and I had a chance to work again in counseling when I left them,” Nutt said. “Not having that diploma made each job interview a dead-end street. Having that high school diploma is like having gold.”
Salazar served with the Army and Air Force in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Attempts to reach Salazar for an interview were unsuccessful.