More than 70 years after Ruben Peters landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day in 1944, the World War II veteran has completed his last great mission: Operation Recognition.
“It was always my wish that I could be educated and show that I graduated,” said Peters, who donned an entirely new uniform on Tuesday — the cap, tassel and the academic stole of a high school graduate.
Just in time for Veterans Day, the 92-year-old former Army corporal and 10 fellow veterans received their honorary high school diplomas as part of a recognition ceremony held annually by California’s Riverside County Office of Education.
Watch our profile – Ruben Peters, war hero and high school graduate:
The event, as set out in the state’s education code, recognizes veterans who missed completing high school due to military service in World War II, the Korean War or the Vietnam War, as well as Japanese-Americans denied their hometown graduation because they were sent to internment camps.
Peters was a student at Jefferson High School in Compton, California prior to heading overseas.
Since its inception nine years ago, Operation Recognition has paved the way for more than 300 veterans to receive honorary diplomas through a joint effort of Riverside County schools Superintendent Kenneth M. Young, the Riverside County Board of Education, and the Riverside schools and the Riverside County Department of Veteran’s Services.
This year’s event took place at the Moreno Valley Conference and Recreation Center, where more than 200 family members, friends and supporters came to applaud the Class of 2015.
More than half of Peters’ 40 grand, great-grand and great-great-grandchildren cheered as he marched across the stage with the gait of a much younger man.
“I always told them, ‘Educate yourselves,’ because I knew my failings,” Peters said. “This world is modern now,” he added, “without education, you're not going to make it."
Peters’ youngest daughter, Doreen, was beaming with pride at Tuesday’s ceremony: “I'm very proud of my father. He's always been my hero.”