GREEN ISLAND, N.Y. (NEWS10) – It’s a moment decades in the making! In early November, seven local veterans were presented with an honor long overdue: their high school diploma.

Superintendent Kimberly Ross from the Green Island Union Free School District, with help from the local American Legion, presented the diplomas to the families and friends of seven local service members who left school to fight in World War I and World War II. Three of those soldiers giving the ultimate sacrifice.

“I think it goes beyond just being a piece of paper, it is a milestone achievement that they were denied as young individuals. We are incredibly proud to be able to provide that for them,” said Ross.

During the ceremony, special awards were given to the honored veterans, including two purple hearts and three bronze stars, just to name a few. To date, the Green Island Union Free School District has been able to award 39 honorary diplomas to living veterans and those survived by their family.

Here is the full list of honorees, according to the Green Island UFSD’s website:

  • Private Ulysses J. Catman, U.S. Army, World War I, who was killed in action on April 28, 1944, along with 748 of his fellow American soldiers when German U-boats torpedoed their fleet in Lyme Bay. Catman attended Heatly School from 1916-1924, before enlisting in the U.S. Army in May of 1943. Kevin Catman, the great nephew of Private Ulysses Catman, accepted Pvt. Catman’s diploma.
  • Private. John E. Gleason, U.S. Army, World War II, who died on Aug. 29, 1942 while being held as a prisoner of war by Japanese soldiers in the Philippines after previously surviving the horrific Bataan Death March. He attended Cohoes Public Schools before enlisting in the National Guard in 1939. Mark Gleason, nephew of Private John E. Gleason, accepted Pvt. Gleason’s diploma.
  • Corporal Thomas E. Hedley, U.S. Army, Germany, who was an Honor Guard at Spandau Prison in Germany where he guarded Nazi officials, including Rudolf Hess. He left school after the 10th grade and moved to Menands, before enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1958. Joseph Lazzaro, friend of Corporal Thomas Hedley, accepted Cpl. Hedley’s diploma. 
  • Private Roy E. Marois, U.S. Army, World War II, who was killed in action in the Battle of Hedgerows in Normandy, France on July 11, 1944. He attended Heatly School from 1927-1938, but left before graduating. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on Oct. 28, 1942. Joseph Nolet, Green Island UFSD Board of Education member, accepted Pvt. Marois’s diploma. 
  • Private James J. Poleto, U.S. Army, World War I, who was deployed to France during World War I and fought in the Battle of St. Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne Campaign. He attended Heatly School before transferring to La Salle Institute in Troy, where he ended up leaving prior to graduation. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in September of 1917. Jane Poleto, daughter of Private James Poleto, accepted Pvt. Poleto’s diploma. 
  • Private John J. Shook, U.S. Army, World War II, who was deployed to the New Guinea Campaign as a Heavy Machine Gunner in World War II. He went to Watervliet Public Schools before enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1942. Steve Shook, son of Private John Shook, accepted Pvt. Shook’s diploma.
  • Joan Shannon, U.S. Army, Pentagon, who was employed by the Pentagon and worked with classified documents throughout the course of her career. She was a student at Heatly High School, but left before graduation due to her family moving to Westhaven, Connecticut in the spring of 1947. Miss Shannon was unable to attend the event, therefore her honorary high school diploma from Heatly School will be mailed to her.