By Brooke Holland
Noozhawk Staff Writer
John Blomstrand entered the U.S. Air Force during the 1960s from Santa Barbara and then served as an aircraft maintenance technician during the Vietnam War.
Margarito Delgadillo entered the U.S. Army in 1951 from Goleta and suffered significant injuries to his right leg from an enemy hand grenade four months after arriving in Korea, where he served as a combat infantryman supporting American operations in the Korean War.
These veterans left their high schools before graduation to fight in wars. On March 7, decades later, they finally received their diplomas.
The Santa Barbara County Education Office offered diplomas to seven U.S. veterans who could not receive theirs due to their service during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
Two diplomas were awarded posthumously, and surviving family members accepted the certificates.
The ceremony at the county Education Office’s auditorium included the traditional commencement activities.
“Pomp and Circumstance” played, and a graduation march occurred.
Graduates wore black robes and mortarboards with tassels.
Once the name of a high school degree candidate was called, the individual took the route of walking across the stage and was handed a diploma in front of more than 200 audience members.
Henry Alvarado, a San Marcos High School alumnus who works for the Buellton Union School District, entered the U.S. Marine Corps in 1964 from Santa Barbara. He served as an infantryman and squad leader.
He was a security guard at the Naval Annex in Washington, D.C., before being deployed to the Mediterranean.
Alvarado achieved the rank of corporal and was honorably discharged in 1967 from Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia. He served an additional three years in the Marine Corps Reserve, and earned the National Defense Service Medal.
After all those experiences, all those years, why does the high school diploma matter to Alvarado?
“It gives me closure,” he told Noozhawk after the ceremony. “It means a lot.”
The seven honorees recognized were:
- Henry Alvarado of Buellton, U.S. Marine Corps.
- John Blomstrand of Goleta, U.S. Air Force.
- Margarito Delgadillo of Goleta, U.S. Army.
- Henry Davis of Santa Maria, U.S. Air Force.
- Arley Allison Kittle of Santa Barbara, U.S. Marine Corps (deceased).
- Timothy Lane of Santa Barbara, U.S. Navy.
- Harry Pico of Goleta, U.S. Army (deceased).
Pico, a Santa Barbara High School alumnus, entered the Army in Los Angeles in 1934 and served in World War II as an assistant anti-aircraft machine gunner on a quad half-track. His unit was attached to the 5th Marine Division and participated in the Battle of Iwo Jima.
Pico was honored with the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal. He died in 2006 at age 84.
Pico’s son, Richard, alongside his three siblings, accepted the diploma on stage at the gathering.
“If he were alive, he would be crying and he would be speechless,” Richard said. “It has come full circle for the family, because we all have our high school educations.
“He instilled work ethic on us, honesty and integrity … and service of the country,” Richard said. “He loved the country.”
Lane, a Carpinteria High School alumnus, entered the Navy in 1952 and served as a deck hand in the Korean War until 1955.
He was selected to serve as an instructor, teaching tactics and radio and telephone communications to the U.S. and South American navies.
Davis served as an Air Force firefighter for eight years before cross training into his personnel career field.
He devoted more than 20 years of his life serving the country and retired as a chief master sergeant at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
Kittle was raised in New York and entered the Marine Corps in 1942 to serve in World War II. He was honorably discharged shortly after, served in the Reserves until 1950, and was recalled to active duty during the Korean War.
He was an aircraft mechanic and worked on torpedo bombers.
Kittle often spent time on the ocean and in Goleta at the marine airbase and training center. He died in 1974. He was 51.
County Superintendent of Schools Susan Salcido welcomed the attendees and congratulated the graduating veterans.
“When we give traditional high school diplomas, it’s a special time for young people who completed the requirement to graduate, and they are ready and looking forward to college and their careers,” Salcido said. “Today, the diplomas are a little bit different.
“We are recognizing individuals who already demonstrated their remarkable accomplishments as adults, who served our country and have served our community,” Salcido said. “Your (the graduates’) life work reflects the attributes represented by a high school diploma, and that is why it’s essential that we acknowledge your achievement … and that you received what you have earned.”
Each graduate got a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition for outstanding and invaluable service to the community from Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara.
The county Board of Supervisors recognized the group for their outstanding service to the country and educational achievement with a resolution of commendation.
Third District county Supervisor Joan Hartmann presented a certificate of recognition honoring the men and congratulating them to the distinguished Class of 2019.
Assemblywoman Monique Limón, D-Santa Barbara, provided a certificate of recognition for their service demonstrating selflessness, compassion and commitment to the nation.
The California Education Code provides county education offices with the discretionary authority to confer the high school diplomas.
Presiding Superior Court Judge Michael Carrozzo, a champion of veterans’ rights, gave special remarks at the ceremony.
Carrozzo was commissioned in the U.S Army as an officer in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. He joined the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office after serving three years of active duty.
“I feel particularly connected to you in a way, being a veteran … I appreciate what you have done for us,” Carrozzo told the men. “You are heroes to our country. You are heroes to our community.”
The audience was treated to multiple short videos telling the first-hand experiences of each war veteran.
“You can tell from these videos that not only did the veterans sacrifice, but their families sacrifice tremendously, too,” Carrozzo said.
Joe Howell, who serves on the Santa Barbara County Board of Education, shook hands with the smiling graduates.
Boys from Los Prietos Boys Camp provided a colors presentation and led the Pledge of Allegiance. The Dos Pueblos High School jazz choir opened with the national anthem.
At the end of the event, it was time to move the cap’s tassel to the other side.