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SACRAMENTO COUNTY — The Sacramento County Board of Education held a special ceremony Tuesday night, awarding high school diplomas to seven military veterans.

The board holds the ceremony once a year at its Mather headquarters as part of a program called Operation Recognition. The program has awarded 196 diplomas since its inception in 2001.

According to a board of education news release, “Operation Recognition honors the contributions of veterans and Japanese American citizens who missed completing high school due to World War II, the Korean War or the Vietnam War.”

“This is our way of saying thank you,” said Sacramento County Superintendent of Schools David Gordon. “And more than that, it’s a way of saying to our young people, ‘Freedom isn’t free. It’s paid for by the service of people and will continue to be paid for. And we can’t take it for granted. Can’t ever take it for granted.'”

The following veterans were honored:

Ernest Arthur Costa (World War II and Korean War)
Telesfor Lucero (World War II and Korean War) (Posthumous award)
Michael John McCoy (Vietnam War)
Harold Glen Price (Vietnam War)
Ronald Lester Van Sant (Vietnam War)
Jessy Sheldon Vincent (World War II)
Tom Zayas (Korean War)

“Means a lot,” Zayas said. “Now I can show my buddies that graduated 66 years ago. I can tell them I graduated too.”

Nominees for next year’s awards may be sent by email to the Sacramento County Office of Education at or by calling the SCOE Communications Office at 916-228-2416.