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Why 48 years later - this Vietnam veteran is now getting his diploma

Updated: Jun. 29, 2019 at 11:40 PM EDT
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TOWN OF EDWARDS, N.Y. (WWNY) - Forrest Lottie’s high school classmates were crossing the stage on a June day 48 years ago. But he was somewhere else entirely.

“I was over in Vietnam about 26 miles outside of Cambodia. Sleeping in a tent. I was out in the bush. I was a combat engineer," Forrest said.

He was drafted in October of his senior year. Served in the Vietnam War. Never walked to “Pomp and Circumstance” like these graduates at Edwards-Knox. Never got a diploma.

Until Saturday.

“I was really excited that my grandfather could graduate with me, said his grandson Royce Lottie, who also got his diploma Saturday. "And I’m proud to have him graduate with me.”

Forrest Lottie was first to get a diploma on Saturday. His daughter, Jessica Friot, a teacher, got the ball rolling on it. It added something to a special day for graduates.

It’s not just Forrest Lottie that can do this. This program is open to any veteran from certain eras. It has been established by state law. It gets those veterans the high school diplomas they missed serving our country.

It's called “Operation Recognition.” Most veterans have never heard of it. That includes Lottie.

“I didn’t know about this until yesterday," said Forrest. "I said well I got to be sick, not show up.”

34 other graduates followed Lottie across the stage Saturday for diplomas, including grandson Royce. 11 of them received Advanced Regents Diplomas and six of those were with honors.

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