Veterans eligible for diplomas

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 11, 2004

Thanks to the efforts of the American Legion Post #80 in Andalusia, potentially thousands of Alabama citizens may be receiving their high school diploma.

Recently passed legislation in the Alabama Legislature grants the State Department of Education the right to present honorably discharged veterans of W.W.II and Korea with a standard high school diploma.

Doyle Taylor, service officer for Post #80 said the legislation’s passage is the conclusion of about a three year journey.

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“We (Post #80) began working on this about three years ago,” Taylor said. “We knew that some states had already begun awarding diplomas to veterans, and that Alabama had not. I talked with Speaker (Seth) Hammett about it, and he said he was very interested in the idea, and since he was a member of this Post, thought it would be great for us to be the one to introduce the idea.”

Taylor said he then went to work on writing the Bill, studying other states with similar legislation.

“I studied up and wrote the Bill myself and sent it to Seth for review,” he said. “It got caught up in a state veterans office for a while, but we were able to work through that – finally.

“While all of that was going on, I had a friend in Kentucky who was interested in the same thing,” Taylor continued. “He was a veteran and asked me if I would help him get something similar started in Kentucky. I wrote it (the Bill) for him so he could present it to the Kentucky Legislature. When he did, he received overwhelming support and it passed easily without opposition, I believe.”

Taylor said all of that happened before Alabama acted on the initial bill.

“I think it’s amazing, that a state that was admitted to the union in 1792, before Alabama was in 1819, was influenced by a group of Alabama veterans,” he said. “I think it’s even more amazing that it all began here in Andalusia, at Post #80.”

After Kentucky passed the legislation, Taylor said he put in another call to Hammett to try and get the ball rolling again.

“I told Seth that Alabama’s dead last in so many things, but I didn’t want us to be last in this,” Taylor said. “He agreed and it was passed through the House at the beginning of the session.”

But that was only the beginning of the battle, Taylor added.

“It didn’t pass the Senate until the last day of the session,” he said. “I hounded Jimmy Holley (state senator for this district) to death. He was able to get it through the Senate and passed.”

The legislation grants the State Superintendent of Education the ability to “award a standard high school diploma to any honorably discharged veteran who served in the United States Armed Forces at anytime between December 7, 1941, and January 31, 1946, and between June 27, 1950, and January 31, 1955, was a resident of Alabama prior to entry into the United States Armed Forces; and whose entry into the United States Armed Forces interrupted high school attendance and prevented graduation,” according to the bill which was HB24.

“We want to let veterans know this available,” Taylor said. “There aren’t that many W.W.II veterans left, but there are still a lot of Korean vets out there. We want people to know so they can start the process and let their local school systems know they are interested in receiving their diploma.”

Although the legislation granting a standard diploma is new, Alabama had previously granted “honorary” certificates about four years ago.

“The honorary certificates were nice, but nothing compares to a real diploma,” Taylor said. “It’s good to know that these veterans can be honored for their sacrifices and that it all began here in Andalusia.”