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Monday, May 2, 2016

Two Linton veterans receive high school diplomas decades after leaving high school

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

(By Sabrina Westfall) Linton brothers Raymond Thomas (left) and Warren "Houston" Thomas were awarded their high school diplomas at Monday's Linton-Stockton School Board meeting more than 50 years after leaving high school to join the military. Joie Gadberry (center) helped the brothers receive the diplomas through the Veterans Affairs Delayed High School Diploma Program [Order this photo]
The Linton-Stockton School Corporation Board of Trustees honored two local brothers with their high school diplomas at the regular monthly meeting Monday night.

Raymond T. Thomas, 85, and Warren "Houston" Thomas, 81, both of Linton, dropped out of high school and joined the military as teenagers.

The brothers said they never thought they would see the day they received their high school diploma, but a newspaper article turned them to the direction of Linton teenager Joie Gadberry.

Gadberry, a Linton-Stockton High School senior, helped her grandfather Hubert Pitcher, a Korean War veteran, receive his diploma through the Department of Veterans Affairs Delayed High School Diploma Program.

"I told my wife since I got my diploma I am going to further my education, and I'm going to Purdue," Raymond Thomas said after receiving his diploma Monday night, causing the room to erupt with laughter.

Raymond Thomas would have graduated from Linton-Stockton High School in 1947, but he left school in an attempt to join the Navy.

"When I was 17, me and another boy (Wayne Denman) wanted to be in the military, so we signed up for the Navy in 1944. We went to Indianapolis to take the physical, and when it came to the eye test I missed one or two and they said I was color blind," Raymond explained.

He then entered the workforce, working at Crane until he was 18, and was drafted into the Army in 1945 to serve in World War II. Raymond admitted it was odd the Army did not find an issue with his supposedly being color blind.

Raymond Thomas served in the U.S. Army of Occupation in Italy, and was detached to the 34th Red Bull Division in the 34th Station Hospital in Rome.

Thomas received an Honorable Discharge in 1947 at Fort Dix, New Jersey. Upon returning home he worked for the Civil Service at the Crane Division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center for over 31 years in the Transportation Department.

He retired in 1976 and was honored with a plaque for his 30 years of federal service.

He also spent his time farming in both the grain and livestock business.

Thomas has a long line of graduates from Linton-Stockton High School in his family including his wife, Olga, who graduated in 1947. All five of his daughters, Peggy, Jeanne, Julie, Marsue and Cheri, are also LSHS graduates.

His great-grandson Dawson Kelm is a fourth grade student at Linton-Stockton Elementary.

Houston Thomas would have graduated from Linton-Stockton High School in 1951, but left in 1949 to join the workforce at the Linton Summit Coal Company.

In 1951, just six months after marrying his wife Betty, Houston Thomas was drafted into the Army to serve in the Korean War. He served with the 116th Engineer Combat Battalion, 19th Engineer Combat Group.

"It was the longest two years of my life. We were married in April and he left in October," Betty said.

Houston said despite not having interest in the military previously, he was proud to have served his country.

"I'm glad I was I was in the service, and went to do what I was supposed to do," Houston said with a smile.

Thomas remembered the trip overseas very thoroughly, recalling being on a ship from California headed to Japan with 5,000 other members of the Army for 17 days.

Once his time in Korea was complete, he joined 2,500 men for a 34 day trip to Staten Island, noting the trip took longer because troops were also dropped off in Puerto Rico and Columbia.

"I left in 1953. We were the first ship to leave after the Armistice was signed," Houston said. "It was not easy to drop everything and leave, and have to go through basic training. But, I survived everything."

When Houston came home, the job he had hoped to return to was no longer in operation.

"When I came back, it (Linton Summit Coal Company) was shut down. I ended up working on the rail road and for Peabody Coal Mine for 30 years. I have been retired since 1989," Houston said.

He was even more honored to be able to revisit the Republic of South Korea in 1991, and be recognized for his time served.

"They treat you like a king ... They give us (veterans) the credit for it because we saved them from falling in the hands of communism," Houston Thomas recounted.

The brothers are ecstatic to finally receive their high school diploma, even after being awarded a certificate of complete at a Linton-Stockton Veterans Day program.

"Our dad (Albert Thomas), he wanted us all to have a high school diploma. There were nine of us, and they all had a diploma but us two," Raymond Thomas said. "Our dad went three years in high school and that was unheard of at that time."

Houston Thomas said the certificate of completion they received in 2003 was a great honor, but actually receiving his high school diploma was something he thought he would never see.

Gadberry said the opportunity has been eye opening for her, and has enjoyed getting to know the Thomas brothers.

"I am so thankful to have had this opportunity. It's definitely been a learning experience," Gadberry said.

If any veterans or their family members are interested in learning how to acquire the Delayed High School Diploma, contact Gadberry at 847-3913.

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Three big cheers for the Thomas' brothers. I know your families are proud of you. Julie posted this on Facebook with a big "WOOT WOOT"

-- Posted by over63 on Tue, Jan 22, 2013, at 3:46 PM

God love them. Thank you for your service & congratulations!

-- Posted by devor2000 on Tue, Jan 22, 2013, at 4:44 PM

I am proud to be Houstons neighbor.

-- Posted by localyokal2 on Tue, Jan 22, 2013, at 4:51 PM

2 more members of "The Greatest Generation"! Thank you gentlemen!

-- Posted by townoflyons on Thu, Jan 24, 2013, at 1:14 PM

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