While the rest of the Class of 1952 was picking up their diplomas, Luis Porras was in Korea, serving as a machine gunner for the Army's 45th Infantry Division.


On Monday, Porras' son Larry, the principal of Oak Hills High School, will see his school's first graduating class walk across the stage at San Manuel Amphitheater. A week later, he'll witness perhaps an even more impressive one, when his 77-year-old father finally receives his high school diploma.


"I missed getting more education, because I didn't realize how important it was, how much easier it was to get rank," said Porras, who dropped out of school in 1950. "You can go up rank in combat, but once it's peacetime, it's harder to get rank."


The Operation Recognition Veterans Diploma Project started three years ago, jointly run by the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools' office and the Department of Veteran Affairs.


"This program was tailor-made for veterans such as my father," said Larry Porras.


"We've had World War II veterans show up for this, in their uniforms, still fitting," said San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools Gary Thomas.


A similar program in Riverside County inspired Operation Recognition.


"The ceremonies are usually very emotional," said Thomas, with veterans "very humbled at the fact that they weren't forgotten."


The first year, 110 graduates of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War received their high school diplomas. Last year, 52 did. This year, when the ceremony moves to Oak Hills High School's stage -- the ceremony rotates throughout the county each year -- about 30 veterans will receive diplomas after decades of waiting.


"They served their country and their education was interrupted by this service to their country," Thomas said. "I think [the program gives] a sense of closure for a lot of these veterans," many of whom had pushed their children to graduate, without having a degree themselves. (In fact, all of Luis Porras' children have master's degrees.)


"I think the goal for any parent ... is to make sure the next generation has it better than they did," said Larry Porras.


His father won't the first parent he has seen receive a high school diploma: His mother, Mary Ruth, received hers in 1967.


"How many kids go to both parents' graduations?" he said. "How cool is that?"


This year's Operation Recognition Veterans Diploma Project ceremony takes place on June 2 at Oak Hills High School, 7625 Cataba Road in Hesperia. Registration begins at 4:30 and the ceremony itself begins at 5:30. There is no charge to participate.


For more information, call the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools at (909) 386-2412 or the Department of Veteran Affairs at (866) 472-8387.


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 760-956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star.