Graduating with honors

Trimble County veterans
relish high school diplomas

World War II, Vietnam veterans receive diplomas
after leaving high school to fight

By Konnie McCollum
Contributing Writer

BEDFORD, Ky. – In 2002, the Kentucky General Assembly passed legislation that would allow any World War II veteran who left high school to join the Armed Forces and fight in the war to receive a regular high school diploma. In 2004, Korean War veterans were added, and in 2005 Vietnam War veterans were added to the list. The diplomas must be actual official documents from the high school.

Lindberg Taylor

Photo by Konnie McCollum

Lindberg Taylor, who left high school
in 1951 to join the Navy, received his
diploma as a surprise birthday gift.

The legislation covered not only those veterans who were drafted but those who joined the service and completed an active duty tour. Lisa Aug, public information officer at the Kentucky Department of Veteran Affairs in Frankfort, Ky., said, “The point of the whole program is to reward those veterans who left school to fight during wartime.”
At this point, Aug said 250 veterans statewide have come forward to receive their diplomas. They simply need to show their DD214 document, which shows they served in the military.
Aug said that when the program first began, many officials within the department were skeptical of the program because they did not understand the purpose of it. After watching several extremely emotional veterans receive their diplomas, however, skeptics of the program have completely changed their minds.
She recounted a story in which an 85-year-old World War II veteran, one of the “tough and brave guys who fought for our country,” received his diploma with a grand display of tearful emotion. “It means everything to them,” she said.
Veterans do not have to be alive to receive their diplomas. Families can contact the state’s Department of Veteran Affairs, and they will be given a diploma for a deceased soldier. Aug said many families have done this.
Korean War veteran Charles Lindberg Taylor, 73, of Bedford, Ky., was among the group of Trimble County veterans who received diplomas on April 13, 2005. He was drafted out of high school and served four years in the U.S. Navy. When he saw an article in the local newspaper about the program, he contacted the Trimble County Board of Education. They told him what to do in order to get his diploma.
“I was totally thrilled to actually be getting a high school diploma, and I certainly appreciate what was done for me,” he said.
Since fall 2002, Trimble County has awarded diplomas to 16 who served in World War II, three who served in the Korean War, and eight who served in Vietnam, according to accounts payable secretary Sandy Ward.
“It’s very rewarding for us to be able to participate in this program. It’s nice to help local families honor their loved ones in this way, and we’re still doing it,” Ward said.
The board held a reception the first year but since then has simply presented the veterans with their diplomas, including one posthumously. “One veteran is going to receive his diploma as a surprise birthday gift, and he doesn’t know it yet,” Ward said.
Taylor’s story began in 1932 when nurses at the hospital in which he was born gave him his name because of the infamous kidnapping of the Charles Lindberg baby earlier that year.
He was a junior in high school when he dropped out on New Year’s Eve in 1951 to join the Navy. He was assigned to the USS Edmonds DE406, a destroyer, where he served for two and a half years in overseas combat.
Later, he was stationed in Alaska and worked as a fireman. He then was put on the Navy destroyer USS Rupertis 851 for one year. He served overseas for a total of 42 months.
When he left the service, Taylor got a job at General Electric in Louisville, Ky., where he worked for 13 months. “A high school diploma at that time would probably have helped me more because it is pretty hard to get a job without a diploma.”
He married Barbara Liter on July 5, 1957, and they had three children: Linnatta, Yomen Charles and Timothy. Taylor and his wife have enjoyed 50 years together.
Upon leaving that job, Taylor opened a Chevron Station at the “Y” intersection in the heart of Bedford, where he became a well-known figure in the community. It is now the Bedford Stop and Go Marathon Station and long since operated by different owners.
Taylor worked there for 28 years before the station was shut down. He then went to work at Louisville Gas and Electric for seven years before he was laid off. He said that if he had a high school diploma at that point, “things might have worked out differently for me.” Taylor, however, is grateful for the all of the help he has received from the government for his service to our country.
“They have been good to me,” he said.

• Anyone interested in the veteran’s diploma program can contact the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs at (502) 564-9203 or their local school board for information. Trimble County High School Board of Education may be reached at (502) 255-3201.

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