Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder, Department of Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, and Sen. Douglas Henry (D-Nashville) presented Korean War era veteran Corporal William Milton Duncan with his high school diploma on Wednesday. Duncan is a Tullahoma native, but current Nashville resident.
Duncan was one of 14 children and could not afford the 25 dollar fee to attend high school in the 1940’s. After a few years in the workforce to raise money to support his family, the Tullahoma teenager decided to go back to high school to become the first male in his family to graduate. However, Duncan received a draft letter from the federal government in 1951 and began serving in the United States Army during the Korean War. The Tennessean served in Alaska and Fort Knox, Kentucky and achieved the rank of Corporal before receiving an honorable discharge. After returning home, Duncan pursued a career in manufacturing until his retirement at the age of 82. The 84-year old has resumed part-time work at a South Nashville grocery story.
“Corporal Duncan is an inspiration to all of us. “He gave up his dream of graduating from high school to serve his country and we are excited to present him with a high school diploma after more than 60 years of service, hard work and perseverance,” Grinder said.
Public Chapter No. 736 allows the State of Tennessee to issue a high school diploma to veterans unable to receive diplomas due to an interruption of their education by service in World War I, World War II, the Korean War or the Vietnam War. According to the Tennessee Department of Education, only three to four veterans request a high school diploma each year since the state law went into effect in 2010.
“We’re honored to be able to play a small part in respecting the service of Corporal Duncan and are happy to present him with his long-awaited diploma,” Huffman said.
Duncan approached Senator Henry last month to find out more about the honorary high school diploma benefit for Korean War veterans.
“As a WWII Veteran myself, I know there are several young men who never got the chance to complete their education. “Bill put his state and country first back in 1951 and it is important to see Tennessee give him his dream after all these years,” Henry said.
Corporal Duncan says getting his high school diploma was not about recognition, but was a way to raise awareness about a little known state benefit.
“I just want all veterans to know there is a way to get your high school diploma if you had to forgo your education to serve the greatest nation in the world. “It has been a dream for me for a long time and this diploma is an important part of my history that I will treasure the rest of my days,” Duncan said.
For more information regarding high school diplomas for World War, Korean War and Vietnam War Veterans visit http://www.tn.gov/veteran/state_benifits/vet_diplomas.shtml.