Millions of high school students are handed their diploma come June each year, and whether they realize it at that moment or not, they are truly lucky to be in the position they are in.
For many veterans who served during World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and for those who continue to serve today, that foregone opportunity may have been one of the many sacrifices made by many of those men and women.
During Tuesday's Fredonia Central School Board of Education meeting, two Fredonia High School alumni were honored. Richard M. Kusneske and Peter E. Cash, each of whom sacrificed his chance to join his fellow classmates on the podium in June by enlisting in the Armed Forces, were presented with honorary diplomas.
Korean Conflict veterans receive their diplomas
"We have the fine privilege of awarding high school diplomas to two gentlemen who have earned our country's utmost respect by leaving high school to serve our country in a time of war or conflict," began Todd Crandall, High School Principal. "Through Operation Recognition in New York State Public Schools, certain veterans earn high school diplomas if they left school without graduating. Under the provision of section 305 of New York State Education Law, Operation Recognition serves the purpose of recognizing the dedication and sacrifice of individuals who served during WWII, the Korean Conflict, or Vietnam Veterans who left school before graduation."
To be eligible, honorees must have been members of the U.S. Armed Forces, received a satisfactory discharge, and are currently a resident of New York state.
Richard M. Kusneske of Portland, served in the U.S. Air Force after attending Fredonia High School until grade 11 when he left to join the armed forces. He was honorably discharged in 1954 after serving during the Korean Conflict.
OBSERVER Photo by Michael Rukavina
Left to right: Fredonia High School Principal Todd Crandall, U.S. Air Force veteran Richard Kusneske, U.S. Navy veteran Peter Cash and his daughter Linda Cash. Kusneske and Peter Cash each received his high school diploma during Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting.
Peter E. Cash of Jamestown served in the U.S. Navy after attending Fredonia High School through 1949 before he joined the Naval Reserves. After completing basic training, Cash served in active duty beginning in 1952 during the Korean Conflict.
"If it wasn't for my daughter, Linda, this would never happen and I want to thank you," Cash said before the audience. "I'm grateful that my daughter went onto the computer to find out about this, otherwise I would have never had this. I have a GED that I received a few years ago, but I never got a diploma. I've known Richard for years and I was happy I was able to get this."
Crandall noted that as a high school principal there are few occasions that parallel the excitement of a commencement exercise.
"The significance of a high school diploma is endless in time, and it signifies greatness of an individual to attain this educational benchmark," he said.
"I think it's outstanding that we have an opportunity to honor young men or women who decided to serve our country or were called to duty," added superintendent Paul DiFonzo. "Obviously, they are making a great sacrifice to leave school, to go and serve in the Armed Forces - whatever branch - and now for them to be recognized for that and to be able to receive their diploma I think is a wonderful thing."
When asked if it was a difficult decision to leave high school to join the U.S. Navy, Cash playfully responded by stating, "No. I was smarter than the teachers. I got my diploma to prove it."
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