Blount County veterans receive honorary high school diplomas

MARYVILLE (WATE) – Many people have regrets or things they wish they had accomplished in life. One thing has been itching at two Blount County veterans over the years – they never graduated from high school.

Both men sacrificed their education to serve our country, but that all changed Thursday afternoon. A small graduation ceremony was held at the old courthouse in downtown Maryville where they received their diplomas.

Lining a table were snapshots of a different time, when Leonard Turner was just 18 years old and sent off to serve.

“Most people didn’t care whether we came back from Vietnam or not and when we came back, we were kind of slipped in to begin with,” said the Vietnam veteran.

He stood for a different reason Thursday. Turner got his high school diploma.

“Put it on the wall. Put it with everything else, he said.

Lining a table were snapshots of a different time, when Leonard Turner was just 18 years old and sent off to serve.
Lining a table were snapshots of a different time, when Leonard Turner was just 18 years old and sent off to serve.

It’s a piece of paper and a graduation he shares with Korean War veteran Carson Hicks.

“Oh it means everything. I really wanted this for a long time and I just couldn’t make myself get it,” said Hicks, 84.

Both men had to leave school early and go off to war. Hicks was out on the front line.

“Get ammo and haul it to the gun pit and sometime I’ve seen them fire as far as they could for seven days,” Hicks said.

During Turner’s tour overseas, he received a Purple Heart.

“That night when we got hit, a lieutenant lined us all up and said we were going up the line and dropping off our guys every so often. Well, I didn’t make it all the way. I got hit and so did one of my best buddies,” he said.

So many sacrifices were made then. For Hicks, that included playing football for UT. Both veterans say this was an accomplishment they’ve been waiting for.

“I’m really proud,” said Hicks.

If your loved one is a veteran whose schooling was interrupted to serve in World War II, the Korean War or Vietnam you can reach out to your local Veterans Affairs Office to ask for help in getting their diploma.

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