A long-awaited diploma

High school graduation is a time for cap-throwing, long gowns, last-minute pranks and pomp and circumstance, but for 83-year-old James Egan, his high school graduation Monday, May 5, was much different.

In a room filled with family members at the South Colonie School District office, Egan, of Colonie, was presented with the diploma he would have received nearly 60 years ago if he had completed high school instead of joining the U.S. Coast Guard.

Before Egan served in the Coast Guard, he was a student at Albany High School. During his time of service, he was a 3rd class electrician's mate in the U.S. Coast Guard Personnel Separation Center in Brooklyn.

Egan said he, luckily, "was never in any bad situations," though he traveled a lot and "got to see the world."

After serving almost four years, Egan was honorably discharged in 1945. Now, as part of a law enacted by former-governor George Pataki in 2000, Egan is finally finished with high school.

The program, labeled "Operation Recognition," grants high school diplomas to all students who left school before graduating to serve in a military division during World War II. A year after the program was in place, it grew to include veterans of the Korean War.

According to the law, recipients of the diploma receive the certificate based on the knowledge and experience they gained while in the service.

Those who actually received their High School Equivalence (or GED) diploma before entering the service are also eligible for the program in which they receive an actual high school diploma.

No evidence of school attendance in New York needs to be proven in order for a veteran to receive their diploma " they only need to prove, in writing, that they did not previously receive one.

Egan found out he could get his diploma when his daughter, a teacher, gathered the appropriate paperwork for her dad.

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