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By KELLY RICHARDSON
ELIZABETHTOWN — Veterans who left high school 30-some years ago are getting the opportunity to finally get their diplomas.
Steve DeRoush received his war-delayed high school diploma at the Oct. 21 Elizabethtown Independent Schools board meeting, and Garry Coomer will receive his diploma at Tuesday’s board meeting, after leaving school in 1973.
War-delayed diplomas were established in Kentucky to give to veterans who left high school to join the military before graduating.
DeRoush heard about the Veterans High School Diploma program while working at the Kentucky Veterans’ Cemetery-Central in Radcliff.
“I was just really shocked,” he said of learning that he could get a diploma 39 years after leaving school.
Coomer read about the program in The News-Enterprise, and filled out the application at http://veterans.ky.gov/pro
“I’m just really proud to be able to get my diploma,” he said.
The program began in 2002, when the General Assembly approved giving diplomas to World War II veterans who qualified, according to a news release from the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs. It was expanded to Korean War veterans in 2004 and Vietnam War veterans in 2005.
There have been 1,060 veterans who have received diplomas since the program’s creation, according to the news release.
Coomer served in the U.S. Army for three years, and worked as a musician for some time after leaving the service. He now works at Altec Industries.
DeRoush, who served in the Army for two years and seven months, worked for a crop-dusting company when he left the military, and then went into construction work. He said there are probably a lot of veterans in his position, who couldn’t go back to school once they returned home.
He said receiving his diploma at the meeting, where he received a standing ovation from those present, was “pretty unbelievable.”
“It was a long time coming,” he said.
Kelly Richardson can be reached at (270) 505-1747.