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Vietnam veteran receives high school diploma 56 years later

MCCANDLESS, Pa. — It was a long time coming, 56 years, but a local veteran finally got something he's waited decades for: his high school diploma.

"It took a long time to get here because people asked why I didn't come before, well I was too busy making a living," said James Neal. "My friend was talking about the class reunion, I said I never did that because I never graduated."

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And before that he was busy serving our country, in Vietnam in the Navy.

But he had unfinished business.


As a junior, Neal withdrew from North Allegheny Senior High School and never got to graduate with his class of 1962.

When the school district recently heard about it, they set to work to change it with the help of a Pennsylvania law, "Operation Recognition." 

"I am at the end of the law," Neal said. "It went from WWII to Korean veterans to Vietnam veterans. I guess the law will run out when the Vietnam veterans are gone.

Operation Recognition allows districts to give diplomas to honorably discharged veterans whose service in World War II, the Korean War or Vietnam interfered with their schooling.