Financial cuts may have caused stress on school districts across the commonwealth, but there is one bill that Harlan County Schools Superintendent Tim Saylor finds heartening.
A new state law charges the Kentucky Department of Education, in consultation with the Kentucky Department of Veterans' affairs, to recognize honorably discharged veterans of World War II by awarding them high school diplomas. Because the soldiers were not able to complete high school prior to being inducted into the United States Armed Forces during World War II, members of the Kentucky General Assembly agreed that such an honor was overdue and highly appropriate for the fading generation of American heroes. School districts across the commonwealth have been asked to recognize their World War II veterans, and Saylor is among those eager to pay respect to the nation's former fighters of freedom.
"I've disagreed with a lot our state General Assembly has done, but this is one action of which I have no reservations to speak highly," Saylor said. "I've always been a big fan of those who have served in the armed forces. For me, they're the top echelon, and I don't believe we recognize them enough. We take them for granted too much, and their dedication and the sacrifices they made to safeguard our freedoms is hard to repay."
A special April program is currently being planned by Saylor and other Harlan County School District officials for area WW II veterans who will be among some of the state's first to obtain their honorary high school diplomas. District choirs are rehearsing patriotic numbers, JROTC units have been asked to take part, and Harlan County Circuit Judge Ron Johnson, who is known for his fierce loyalty to veterans, has been contacted to be the event's keynote speaker. Johnson was pleased when he heard about the new law and the county's big plans for an impressive program.
"I don't think there can ever be enough positive things said about the sacrifices that our fathers and mothers and grandfathers and grandmothers made during World War II, especially the veterans," Johnson said. "The ranks are growing thinner everyday and every one of us should hasten to tell these folks once again how much we appreciate what they've done or America and their children and grandchildren."
The district intended for the program to take place earlier this year, but once plans started begin made, school officials realized more time was needed. Saylor also wants WW II veterans interested in receiving honorary diplomas and taking part in the program to contact his office.
To determine eligibility, an honorably discharged veteran of WW II or a member of the veteran's family must provide a discharge certificate showing the period of service, type of discharge, and the name of the school and district of enrollment. If the high school or district has been consolidated or reconfigured since the veteran's enrollment, the current local board of education with jurisdiction will award the diploma.