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The Ichabod Crane Central School District was recently honored to help two veterans – Harold Williams and Roger Mazal – receive their high school diplomas by participating in the New York State Division of Veterans’ Services Operation Recognition. Both Mr. Williams and Mr. Mazal joined the military prior to graduating from high school to serve their country in World War II and the Vietnam War, respectively. Per the NYS website:

Veterans who left high school without graduating are eligible to earn New York State high school diplomas. Operation Recognition, created by Section 305 of New York’s Education Law, recognizes the devotion and sacrifice of all Veterans who left school early by presenting them with a high school diploma.
To be eligible, a Veteran must meet the following requirements:

  1. Be a New York State resident
  2. Engaged in active duty service for at least one day
  3. Discharged under honorable conditions

Deceased Veterans can receive a diploma. The child or spouse of a deceased Veteran who met the criteria listed above may apply and accept a posthumous diploma on the Veteran’s behalf.

Mr. Williams initially left school in the 8th grade to help his family during the Great Depression. When WWII began, he joined the Army and eventually took part in the storming of Normandy on D-Day (June 6, 1944) before returning home to Valatie at the end of his service.

Mr. Mazal left Ichabod Crane High School in his junior year to serve in the Vietnam War. In 1969, he was tragically killed in action, receiving both a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for his bravery and sacrifice.

These two men came to the attention of the district when Tom Mullins, a veteran advocate living in Green Island, reached out to Ichabod Crane Superintendent, Suzanne Guntlow, to see if it would be possible to honor them for their efforts by granting them high school diplomas. Mr. Mullins has helped numerous veterans of Greene Island receive their belated high school diplomas and had recently been doing research on Valatie veterans. He met Mr. Williams after being told he was a local expert on WWII. He found out about Mr. Mazal when he came across his memorial stone in the War Memorial Garden of Valatie’s Glynn Square. Upon further research, Mr. Mullins found out the bridge over Kinderhook Creek in downtown was renamed the Roger J. Mazal Memorial Bridge by Governor Cuomo.

Mr. Mullins collaborated with Mr. Williams’ daughter and daughter-in-law to gather all the necessary materials and documentation to show he met the Operation Recognition criteria. Mr. Mazal still has a living relative who assisted with gathering information on him but no living direct relatives, so Mr. Mullins collaborated with members of the Valatie community to gather further necessary information. Of great help gathering more information about Mr. Mazal were local business owner Guy Gamello, Dominick Lizzi (author of Valatie: The Forgotten History) and Dave Scace & Dick Gagnon of the Bond Funeral Home.

Thanks to all these individuals, it was shown that both veterans qualified to receive their diplomas. The final step was for Mr. Mullins to see if it was possible for Ichabod Crane to grant those diplomas and Ms. Guntlow was both honored and happy to help make that happen. She brought the request before the Board of Education at a recent meeting and they unanimously approved for Mr. Williams and Mr. Mazal to receive Ichabod Crane High School Diplomas.

The district feels privileged to help honor these two local heroes and is grateful for the efforts of everyone who helped make it a reality. At a still to be determined date in early 2021, Ichabod Crane will be presenting Mr. Williams – still a resident of the Capital Region and turning 98 in January 2021 – with his diploma in person. Keep a lookout in the near future for more information and coverage of this event.

Photo Credit for Picture of Mr. Mazal in Vietnam: Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Fund Website