Seven veterans of foreign wars who didn’t graduate from high school received their diplomas — one posthumously — Tuesday under a Riverside County program that provides graduate certificates to former airmen, soldiers, sailors and Marines who gave up school to serve their country.

The county Office of Education conducted its 13th “Operation Recognition” program for the benefit of veterans of World War II and the Vietnam War during a ceremony at the Moreno Valley Conference and Recreation Center.

The widow and daughter of Vallie Lee Engelauf, a Jurupa Valley businessman who served in the U.S. Navy during WW II, were presented with a diploma in his honor.

Engelauf died in May 2000, and his family decided it was past time to procure the one thing he’d always missed receiving.

According to the Office of Education, Engelauf’s wartime experience included watching as Marines hoisted the colors after defeating the Japanese during the battle for Mount Suribachi on Feb. 23, 1945 — an epochal moment memorialized in numerous films and documentaries.

Engelauf, his older brother, George, and father, William, all have their names inscribed at Veterans Memorial Park in Jurupa Valley in recognition of their collective military service.

Also receiving diplomas were Gilberto Allen, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Vietnam; George Flowers of Palm Springs, another U.S. Army vet who did a tour of duty in Vietnam; Raul Garcia of Indio, who also served in the Army during Vietnam; John Hudson of Indio, who served in the Coast Guard during WW II; Richard Granados of Menifee, who served in the Army during Vietnam; and fellow Vietnam vet Franklin Stevens of Riverside, who served in the Navy.

Under Operation Recognition, vets are eligible to receive certificates even though they never finished school.

Superintendent of Schools Judy White said more than 350 veterans from Riverside County have received diplomas under the program since it was initiated in 2007. Some of the recipients have been over 90 years old.

Operation Recognition is based on California Education Code 51440, which permits the retroactive granting of graduation certificates to honorably discharged or retired vets who served while the country was on a war footing. All they have to do is sign up.

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