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Eight Veterans Receive High School Diplomas at 12th Annual Operation Recognition

Jack Griner. – Courtesy photo

World War II veterans among graduates who abandoned their education to serve

Every day, 93-year old World War II veteran Jack Griner sits down at his computer to write poetry. The prose includes topics ranging from world travels and humorous reflections to hard-earned wisdom from nine decades of life. The latest collection of poems will soon be published in his 15th book that will be released shortly after he receives his high school diploma on Nov. 13 as part of the Operation Recognition Program.

The Operation Recognition Program awards diplomas as a joint effort of the Riverside County Board of Education, the Riverside County Office of Education, and the Riverside County Department of Veterans’ Services. Since its inception in 2007, more than 350 diplomas have been presented to residents of Riverside County who missed completing high school due to military service in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, or due to internment in WWII Japanese-American relocation camps.

Mr. Griner is one of eight graduates who will be honored as part of the Operation Recognition Class of 2018 at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 13, at the Moreno Valley Conference Center (14075 Frederick St., Moreno Valley) as authorized by Education Code Section 51440 and 51430.

Born in Chicago, Jack Griner doesn’t have many fond memories of school. “I didn’t stay there too long because I was too ornery. I was a show-off and was trying to make points with the girls,” Mr. Griner said. “School and I didn’t get along too well. They wondered what in the world they were going to do with me and I said I wanted to join the service.”

Early on, he thought he might attend school and become a preacher, but that was short-lived. “I did get into one fight. I had no idea who the guy was, but he happened to be one of the boxing champions. He gave me one punch in the mouth and that was it.”

Before turning 18, Mr. Griner dropped out of school and found himself in a much bigger fight after enlisting in the U.S. Navy. Mr. Griner explains, “My dislike of school, on top of everything else, made it easy to make a decision.”

During his four years of service during World War II, Mr. Griner served in the Pacific Theater as the driver of an amphibious landing vehicle. He piloted his vessel carrying 36 soldiers on to the beaches of Guam, Saipan, Tinian, the Marshall Islands, Okinawa, and Iwo Jima.

In July of 1944 on the shores of the island of Tinian in the Marianas Islands, Mr. Griner survived the sinking of his ship by Japanese forces. He would later receive the Purple Heart for injuries incurred during that battle and two commendations.

After the war, Mr. Griner settled in southern California and soon met and married his wife, Erna. They were married for 59 years before she passed in 2008.

He found gainful employment and eventually established a manufacturing business that produced a wide variety of creative items including bent plywood frequently used in furniture. His factory received significant damage during the Watts Riots in 1965, but it was eventually rebuilt.

After retirement and traveling around the world with Erna, the Griners settled in the Coachella Valley. Mr. Griner still lives independently in his home in Thousands Palms and tinkers with tools in his garage that remind him of his creative manufacturing days.

Part of his daily routine is to write. And, although Jack and Erna never had any children, it didn’t prevent him from penning several children’s books and poetry collections.

“Writing books for children makes me feel like I’m enjoying a second childhood,” Mr. Griner said.

His 15th book, “Rose Petals,” is a collection of poems at the publisher now and will be released later in 2018 after he receives his high school diploma.

“Getting a diploma never came to mind. I didn’t let it. I just bypassed it because I learned enough on my own. My wife was a lot smarter than I was, so every time I had a problem, I’d ask her,” Mr. Griner shared. “You become a pretty good bluffer after a while. Nobody ever asked me if I had a diploma, and I wasn’t about to tell them.”

When he heard about the opportunity to receive a high school diploma through the Operation Recognition program, he decided to apply.

“I thought that would be kind of fun to try for it,” Mr. Griner said. “Now I’m wondering how much having it is going to change how much I know. It might make me a better speller because I can’t spell at all. Spell check on the computer saves my day.”

Operation Recognition Class of 2018

Jack Griner
World War II
U.S. Navy
Resident of Thousand Palms

“Ron” Robert Jackson
Korean War
U.S. Coast Guard
Resident of Hemet

Charles Whatley
World War II
U.S. Army
Resident of Riverside

Pat Baca
World War II
U.S. Army
Posthumously (family from Moreno Valley)

Raymond Casares
Korean War
U.S. Marines
Resident of Hemet

Steve Stone
Vietnam War
U.S. Army
Resident of Homeland

Jerry Arnold
Korean War
U.S. Marines
Resident of Hemet

Kenneth Weiner
Vietnam War
U.S. Army
Resident of Murrieta

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