More than 45 years after he left school to serve in the Marines during the Vietnam War, William O. Lloyd of Henderson received his high school diploma.
Lloyd, who attended Union County High School in the late 1960s, recalls that a recruiter from the Marines visited his school one day.
“A Marine came in there in his dress blues and everything and was talking to kids that was 17, and I said, ‘Hey, I want to do that,’ ” he said.
In Vietnam, Lloyd served with the 1st Battalion 5th Marines as a rifleman from 1970 to 1972, earning the Combat Action Ribbon, Vietnam Campaign Ribbon and a Purple Heart, he said. Upon his return to the U.S., he held a factory job for 20 years before switching to selling insurance for his father-in-law Jim Osborne’s company, he said. He now works for the Life Insurance Co. of Alabama as Kentucky state manager.
Years ago, Lloyd said he tried to get his high school diploma through a veterans administration officer at the employment office in Henderson. “He said he’d get back to me,” he said. “Well I never heard from him again.”
Throughout his life, Lloyd never tried to get a GED. “I was too busy doing other things,” he said. “I was raising kids and working.”
Lloyd received his diploma through the Veterans High School Diploma Program, which is part of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs, according to Donald McGlothlin, disabled veteran outreach program specialist at the Kentucky Career Center in Bowling Green. McGlothlin coordinated with the school and KDVA to provide Lloyd with his diploma, he said.
The program, which has been in operation since 2002, allows veterans who fought in World War II, Korea and Vietnam to receive diplomas from the last high school they attended, he said.
Few veterans eligible for the program have used it because it is not well known, McGlothlin said.
“No one really markets it,” he said. In addition, difficulties can arise when records are misplaced through the years, he said.
“It seems trivial to some people because they’re older veterans and a lot of them are retired, but it means the world to them when the country says ‘thank you’ back to them,” he said.
Lloyd said he received his diploma on Veterans Day at a ceremony at Union County High School. He was in Bowling Green on Monday to receive further recognition at the career center.
Amy Nelson, the school’s vice principal who handed him the diploma, said Lloyd’s graduation ceremony was embedded in Union County’s yearly Veterans Day assembly.
Her father is also a Vietnam veteran who received his high school diploma through the same process a few years ago, she said.
“It was really special for me, seeing Mr. Lloyd get his diploma,” she said.
She thinks receiving a high school diploma is important for many veterans who left school to serve, she said. “It gives them that closure and completion,” she said.
Having a high school diploma is far more important now than back when he was entering the workforce, Lloyd said.
Even then, he said, a diploma would have “opened a lot of doors” for him.
“I wouldn’t recommend anybody quitting school and doing that because nowadays if you don’t have at least a GED, you can’t even get a job at a factory,” he said.