Santa Barbara County presents special diplomas to veterans
Families and friends cheered as the Santa Barbara County Education Office honored six veterans with retroactive high school diplomas.
The diplomas were presented at a special graduation ceremony Thursday at SBCEO’s office in Santa Barbara.
More than 200 people attended the ceremony, where Dr. Susan Salcido, the county superintendent of schools, and the Santa Barbara County Board of Education presented diplomas for six veterans. Diplomas are presented retroactively to veterans whose education was interrupted by their service during World War II, the Korean War or the Veteran War or internment in a relocation camp during World War II.
Veteran Guadalupe Lopez received a diploma at the ceremony and addressed the audience.
“Some of the men that I served with were either killed or wounded, and it’s been tough just thinking about it and wondering if they made or if they didn’t make it,” Mr. Lopez said. “That goes into my mind periodically, and I wish there was a way I could find some of my buddies.”
Mr. Lopez, who is a longtime resident of Santa Barbara where he ran a successful roofing company, was raised in Santa Maria and would have graduated from Santa Maria High School. He was a corporal in the U.S. Army and served two tours in Vietnam.
He later served as a chaplain with the Santa Barbara Police Department and as the associate pastor of Agua Vida Church in Santa Barbara. He currently serves as chaplain of the Mid-Coast Veterans Alliance.
Another diploma was announced for Clark Hoyt, who didn’t attend the ceremony.
Four of the diplomas were awarded posthumously and were received by family members on behalf of their deceased father or grandfather. Those diplomas were awarded for Marcos Ramirez Carrillo (represented by his daughters Molly Carrillo-Walker and Julia Cory), Jesus Torres Jr. (represented by his daughter, Ana Torres), Shukichi Hokedo (represented by his son, Paul Hokedo) and Modesto T. Cardenas (represented by his granddaughter Destiny Trigueros).
Mr. Cardenas died in 2008. In a video tribute, his daughter said, “He would be so thrilled to know that he was going to get his high school diploma because he really wanted that. He never gave up. He kept always trying to better himself. He never gave up on learning.”
Dr. Salcido praised the veterans during her address to the audience.
“After the tremendous service you’ve given, and the sacrifices you’ve made, it is now our moment to provide a tangible acknowledgment of our gratitude in your honor, and in honor of your legacies,” she said. “To those of you who are here on behalf of a veteran who is no longer with us, we are so deeply grateful that you have chosen to be part of this milestone occasion in tribute to your loved one.
“Today, we are recognizing individuals who have served our country and then went on to serve their communities,” Dr. Salcido said. “Their life’s work reflects the very attributes represented by a high school diploma. That’s why it is essential that we acknowledge their achievements and hear and remember their stories, which have impacted us all.”
Special comments were delivered by a guest speaker, Dr. Roger Welt, a Vietnam veteran and retired Allan Hancock College vice president of student affairs. Dr. Welt served as a Vietnam War combat correspondent and went on to receive three Bronze Star medals, an Army commendation medal and a combat infantryman badge.
In addition to families and friends, those attending Thursday’s ceremony included countywide school leaders, public and law enforcement officials, veterans’ groups, and representatives from the Vandenberg Space Force Base, led by Col. Christopher Sheffield.
Others attending included former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell, former Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone, Sheriff Bill Brown, Deputy District Attorney John Savrnoch, and Santa Barbara County Supervisors Das Williams, Joan Hartmann and Steve Lavagnino.
The event included the UCSB ROTC Color Guard, the La Colina Junior High School Jazz Band, the Santa Barbara Bagpipe and Drum Corps, the Adelfos Ensemble, and San Marcos High School sophomore saxophonist, Eliel Pozos Martinez.
This is the second year that SBCEO has organized the Operation Recognition program and graduation ceremony. To date, SBCEO has awarded 13 veterans from our county with retroactive high school diplomas.