Updated: Jun 11, 2019
Humbly nestled in the crowds at the reunion this year was Korean War Rakkasan, Ervin Wicklander (L Co. 187th RCT), a Charter Founding Life member of the Rakkasan Association. While attending the Pylon Ceremony at Fort Campbell, Ervin struck up a conversation with life long educator and Membership Chairman for the Association, Darel Schoening (187th D Co commander in 1989) when the topic of schooling came up.
Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” ― Henry Ford
Ervin is a Korean war veteran, like Darel he is a Wisconsin native but unique to Ervin is that he was the oldest member of his 2010 high school graduating class. According to the Wisconsin department of Veteran Affairs, "Local School Boards in the state of Wisconsin, under the authority of Wisconsin Statutes section 120.13 (37), may award a high school diploma to veterans who left high school before receiving a high school diploma to join the U.S. armed forces during a statutorily designated war period". Implemented in 1999, The veteran diploma program "Operation Recognition" recognizes veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam by granting them high school diplomas. It’s a belated gesture of lasting respect and appreciation for their service and commitment to our nation.
Explaining the proud grin caused by his new friend, Shoening explained:
"Elvin embodies everything I love about our country, the Army, and about the Rakkasans. He is from a small town in the upper Midwest. He joined the Army because some of his friends thought it was the right thing to do. Through some odd circumstances he found himself in the Airborne Rakkasans. He accepted that fate and made the most of it. A long time after he finished his service, he found out that he could receive his high school diploma. This generous act is another testament to the wonderful things that happen in middle America."
For more information about the Veterans Diploma Project, Operation Recognition, visit the Department of Veterans Affairs website.