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Vet receives diploma 44 years later
Larry Parshall dropped out of Modesto High School in 1967 at age 17, a listless soul who "knew everything and couldn't be taught anything." Fifty-four days after he turned 18 in 1968, Parshall enlisted in the Marine Corps and was sent to fight in Vietnam.

Last week the Stanislaus County Office of Education presented Parshall, 61, and eight other Stanislaus County veterans with high school diplomas in the Operation Recognition program. The diplomas were presented Nov. 8 at the SCOE headquarters on H Street in Modesto.

Each year SCOE pays homage to veterans prior to Veterans' Day for their service to the country.

"It was an outstanding ceremony honoring the veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam wars," said Parshall, a 25-year Ceres resident.

Parshall did quite well in life without an actual diploma since he earned his GED when he first considered a career in the military. He later went to college and earned his associate degree in criminal justice at Modesto Junior College. At that time he was working as an officer with the Oakdale Police Department. He retired as an OPD lieutenant in 2007.

With his GED and AA degree, the absence of a high school diploma was no big deal to Parshall. The diploma may have seemed like a token but Parshall appreciated the gesture made by SCOE.

"It was just the idea that they took the time to recognize a lot of the veterans who were in some cases drafted and in other cases not doing very well (in school)."

Parshall served in the Vietnam War for a year, working as mechanic on tanks while also being in charge of five tank crews in the Quang Tri province near the demilitarized zone.

"It was eye opening to an 18 year old," said Parshall of Vietnam. "You obviously grow up very quick, from 18 and 35, just like boom, boom, boom."

He said his war experiences changed his life and have been with him almost daily.

Residents of Stanislaus County whose high school education was interrupted during World War II, Korean or the Vietnam wars due to military service or Japanese-Americans being placed into interment camps are eligible to apply and receive a belated high school diploma. The diplomas are authorized by the California Education Code. Since 2002, SCOE has awarded 116 diplomas under this Senate Bill 1517.

Also presented diplomas were: Willis "Jack" Bright of Turlock, a WWII Navy veteran; Everett G. Dixson of Modesto, a Vietnam War era Air Force veteran; Donald L. Hancock of Modesto, a Korean War Army veteran; Raymond W. Lewis of Salida, a Korean War Navy veteran; Benjamin Montgomery of Modesto, a Vietnam War Army veteran; David F. Rodriguez Jr. of Modesto, a Vietnam War Marine Corps veteran; Larry E. Shetterly of Oakdale, a Korean War Marine Corps veteran; and Thomas L. Thompson of Patterson, a Vietnam War Army veteran.

The program included a presentation of colors from members of the Stanislaus Military Academy, a Patterson first-grader singing the National Anthem, comments from Superintendent of Schools Tom Changnon, a video profiling the men and commendations from representatives of elected officials.