This Vietnam Vet is Now Battling For His High School Diploma
Ken Weiner’s home is a shrine to an exceptional past. His wall is adorned with some of the most prestigious accolades a person could ever receive, including the Air Medal with Valor and the Purple Heart. But at 68 years old, the Vietnam veteran, who now suffers from Parkinson’s Disease, says something very important is still missing: his high school diploma.
Weiner has been fighting the Long Beach Unified School District for his Lakewood High School diploma for the past two years. Section 51430 of the California Education Code allows those who left high school to join World War II, the Korean War, or the Vietnam War — or who were interned in Japanese internment camps — to receive their diplomas retroactively. For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, the district has denied Weiner’s request.
“It is my hope that you understand that we must adhere to the requirements that we are provided to follow by law,” Carol Ortega, program administrator for Long Beach Unified, wrote to Weiner on Oct. 29. In a response to an inquiry from Southern California News Group, district spokesman Chris Eftychiou wrote, “We do provide diplomas to former students who have met graduation requirements, but we cannot comment on individual cases.”
“I’ve never asked for anything in my life,” said Weiner, who suffered multiple injuries during war, including being shot in the foot when his helicopter was hit by enemy fire. “The one thing I’ve asked for is this diploma.”
Despite receiving his GED during training through the Military Institute of Education, he is the only person in his family who never received a high school diploma — and it haunts him.
California’s education code was changed in 2004 to allow some veterans of foreign war and internment survivors to receive their high school diplomas retroactively. Since then, a number of districts have reached out to veterans in hopes of getting them into the program. Sacramento launched “Operation Recognition” which encourages veterans to take advantage of the opportunity. As CalSchoolNews reported, Solano County recently extended the deadline to apply for its own Operation Recognition program. Qualified candidates will be receiving their high school diplomas in a ceremony this month.
Read more about the battle between Long Beach Unified and Ken Weiner at the Los Angeles Daily News.