Last June, Bayonne High School graduating ceremonies honored two men who had taken almost a lifetime to get recognition, men who had forsaken school for a higher cause—to serve their country in the military—only to return as civilians and not pick up their lives where they left off. Instead of going back to school, they and others like them, moved on with their lives, trying to make a living and raise their families—no doubt with the lingering regret that they never got the diploma their peers had earned.
Since 2010, the Bayonne school district has been trying to make up for that loss by seeking out and giving diplomas to men and women who served their country and lost out on their recognition as students.
Last June Thomas Cuseglio, 88, received the diploma he had missed out on in the 1940s when he joined the U.S. Navy, and later was transferred to the U.S. Marines, serving in the Pacific Theater during World War II.
Joel Porter, who left BHS in his sophomore year to join the Navy, served in Vietnam from 1975 to 1979, and he, too, was finally given recognition through Operation Diploma. Bernard Trainor, a sergeant in the U.S. Marines, received this honor in 2011, and so did John Brown, although it was his son who accepted the honor for him.
This year, the Bayonne School district is once more reaching out to veterans who did not get their diplomas. Many from World War II or the Korean War are getting up in age, but some veterans from later wars also made the same sacrifice.
“We have about three months to find them before graduation ceremonies on June 19,” said Schools Business Administrator Leo Smith. “We want to find them and do this for them. All they have to do is fill out a simple application.”
School districts, thanks to authorization from the state, are allowed to award honorary diplomas to veterans who responded to the nation's need. The state launched the effort with a program called "Operation Recognition" to honor them. Under this program, school districts can award diplomas to veterans of World War II who left high school to serve between Sept. 16, 1940, and Dec. 31, 1946. This includes veterans of all branches of service, including the Merchant Marines and U.S. Coast Guard. Since then, school districts have been allowed to honor veterans from later conflicts who left school for military service.
Any Bayonne veteran who fits the criteria or anyone who knows someone who does, should contact BHS Vice Principal Robert Pierce at (201) 858-5891. An application needs to be filed prior to June 7 in order to take part in the June 19 graduation ceremony.