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Achieving An Educational Milestone Years After Military Service

Michelle Loxton
James Nannie in his home in Soledad. He is finally going to get his high school diploma after military service interrupted his schooling more than 50 years ago.

UPDATED 2/4/20 10:00AM: The deadline to submit an application for the Veterans Diploma Project has been extended. Applicants have until Friday, March 27, 2020. The graduation ceremony is planned for April 2020.

For some veterans, the chance to finish high school is interrupted by military service. Now, an initiative by the Monterey County Office of Education aims to give some older veterans something they missed out on -- recognition and a diploma.

In 1966, on the same day James Nannie decided to enlist in the military, he received his draft notice. He was in 10th grade at Seaside High School. 

The fact that he never got his high school diploma has always weighed on him. 

Cause I have brothers, I have siblings, and all of them graduated and my kids went to Seaside High also and they graduated from there. And I've always thought about it,” Nannie said.

Nannie has signed up to be a part of the Veterans Diploma Project, which allows those who served in World War II, the Korean War or the Vietnam War to apply for a high school diploma. 

Japanese American citizens who were placed in internment camps before they were able to finish high school can also take part.

For Dr. Deneen Guss, Monterey County superintendent of schools, it’s about recreating an important educational milestone.

“It will just give us the great opportunity to try to recreate that graduation ceremony that they missed so many years ago,” said Guss.

Dr. Deneen Guss, Monterey County superintendent of schools, in her office in Salinas.

James Nannie is spreading the word about the project. He thinks it’ll be a positive thing for many veterans. 

I think it'll help with their self-esteem,” said Nannie.

He also has a spot in mind for his framed diploma.

It'll be somewhere where everybody can see it,” Nannie said.

Those wanting to take part must apply on the Monterey County Office of Education’s website. 

The deadline is February 7, 2020 with a graduation ceremony planned for March.

From 2019 to 2021 Michelle Loxton worked at KAZU as an All Things Considered host and reporter. During that time she reported on a variety of topics from the coronavirus pandemic, the opioid epidemic and local elections. Loxton was part of the news team that won a Regional Edward R. Murrow Award for the continued coverage of the four major wildfires that engulfed California’s Central Coast in 2020.