December 5, 2002

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A symbolic honor for WWII vets

When it meets next Thursday, the Yellow Springs Board of Education should do the right thing and give final approval to a proposal to award diplomas to veterans who left high school to fight in World War II. Though such an award would be largely symbolic, the school district would make a strong statement that it values the contributions of WWII veterans by making it an official policy of the school board.

This proposal, which is actually a state policy, would allow the school board to recognize the efforts of World War II veterans who did not graduate from high school and instead fought in the war. Any veteran who left school to serve in the military and who currently lives in Ohio would be eligible to receive a diploma from the board, though the intent of the school district’s policy is to award diplomas to WWII veterans who attended Bryan High School. Diplomas may also be awarded posthumously to eligible veterans. Rich Bullock, the school board president, estimated a total of 12 people from Bryan High might be eligible.

This proposal has gone through a fair amount of discussion among the school board. Earlier this fall, it was introduced, but board members, concerned about awarding unearned diplomas and disregarding conscientious objectors, turned it down. Last month, however, Mr. Bullock reintroduced the proposal, saying his need to honor veterans outweighed concerns about any precedent the policy might set. The board, following his lead, voted 3–2 to approve an initial reading of the proposal. A second reading on the policy will take place when the board meets next Thursday, Dec. 12.

The concerns raised by board members about this policy have merit. Under most circumstances, awarding unearned diplomas is not a good idea. Awarding diplomas to veterans, however, is not a typical situation. One could easily argue that WWII veterans have earned their diplomas, no matter how late in life they receive them.

It is also important to recognize the sacrifices made by those who choose not to participate in war and military conflict for philosophical, political or religious reasons. This is especially true in Yellow Springs, whose residents have often opposed military actions. That’s why last month Mr. Bullock also introduced a resolution recognizing both WWII veterans and conscientious objectors. The school board unanimously approved the measure.

If one were to ever call a war a noble and necessary cause, World War II would certainly qualify. Its veterans deserve our admiration. As small a gesture as it may be, awarding diplomas to a few veterans is one way we can thank them for serving this country. The strongest case for supporting this measure was made by Mr. Bullock, who said in an interview that, torn between his heart and his head on this issue, he has decided to follow his heart.

—Robert Mihalek