Ossining, New York – “Tony and I were brought to the principal’s office,” said Ed Cook of American Legion Post 506 in Ossining. “It was the first time in my life anything good came from being called on the carpet.”
Earlier this Spring, Ed Cook and Tony D’Agostino visited Ossining High School representing the American Legion, to interview students for Boy’s State, an American Legion leadership program for youth. Between interviews, Tony and Michele Marona, a Guidance Secretary, began chatting. Michele went to school with Tony’s daughter Cathy.
Ms. Marona learned that though all of Tony’s 10 children graduated high school, Tony himself never did. He had enlisted in the US Army following Pearl Harbor, without finishing school.
Michele says, “A bell went off in my head. I knew about New York State’s ‘Operation Recognition’ and thought Mr. D’Agostino would be eligible. I marched him over to Mr. Mandel, the Principal, and that’s how today’s diploma award began.”
Thursday afternoon, Tony D’Agostino, 97, a World War II veteran, graduated from Ossining High School, in a special ceremony in the school library. Joined by family and his American Legion buddies, Tony humbly accepted his diploma from Mr. Mandel.
Tony said he was at a loss for words, but thanked the school, his family, and the American Legion for making him very proud. He gave special thanks to Michele Marona for applying to the state on his behalf, and for coordinating the event. And he thanked his Granddaughter, Gloria, for bringing him to a high school art program for veterans—in which art and photography students create projects based on veterans they meet. This project got Tony interested in working with students, and led to his involvement with Boy’s State.
During the war from 1942 to 1945, Tony was in the 437th Signal Corps, establishing communications lines throughout Europe and Africa. When he returned home, he started a family with his wife Sarah, and using the skills he learned in the army earned licenses as an electrician and plumber. “I always wanted to go back to finish school, but work and family took over, and I never got back to it,” said Tony. “I’m glad I talked to Michele that day.”
“I am very happy for Mr. D’Agostino,” said Ms. Marona, “seeing the family together and his friends so happy for him, I feel there’s a special spirit at work in this story.”
Principal Mandel said, “Ossining High School is proud and honored to be able to present a high school diploma to Mr. D’Agostino. Mr. D’Agostino not only served the Ossining community as a parent and businessman, but he also served our country in World War II. I feel fortunate to be able to present him his long overdue high school diploma.”
“This is awesome,” Granddaughter Gloria Ibanez said, “I only wish we knew about it sooner, so Grandpa could have walked up with me for our diplomas at graduation last year.”
Operation Recognition allows New York high schools to award diplomas to veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, if they did not finish school because of the war, and meet other certain criteria. Information about the program can be found at http://www.veterans.ny.gov/content/operation-recognition-0