On the day Edward Nycz was supposed to graduate from high school, he was already a young Marine.
Less than a year removed from the attack on Pearl Harbor and with the deadliest war in human history raging on, his patience wore thin. He wanted to help. He wanted to serve his country.
“My dad was a quiet and humble man,” his son Jim Nycz said. “But he proudly served this country.”
Edward Nycz was a high school senior when he enlisted in the Marines on Oct. 2, 1942.
Because of his service, he missed out on high school experiences. He couldn’t attend prom, he didn’t have an opportunity to don a cap and gown, and he didn’t get a chance to walk across the stage.
He did something greater. He joined the armed forces in the midst of a war that claimed the lives of more than 400,000 U.S. service members, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
But Mr. Nycz’s decision to sacrifice his high school education for the good of the country did not go unnoticed. He was posthumously awarded his high school diploma Sunday afternoon during Rossford’s Memorial Day parade. His diploma was presented to his two sons.
“It’s very emotional,” Jim Nycz said. “I’m so proud of my dad and so grateful for Rossford. It’s hard to put it in words.”
An Ohio law passed in 2003 authorized school districts to issue diplomas to veterans who left high school to join the military during World War II, the Korean War, or the Vietnam War.
To qualify, veterans must live in Ohio or had been enrolled at an Ohio high school when they departed. They also must have been honorably discharged.
Women can also receive a diploma if they left high school during wartime to support their families or to join the war effort.
Sharon Belkofer, a member of Rossford’s school board, said awarding Edward Nycz his diploma is the least the school district could do to thank him for his service.
Ms. Belkofer, whose own son died serving this country, said she was honored to present the veteran’s sons his high school diploma.
“He put this country before everything else,” she said.
This is the first time the school district has awarded a diploma to someone who didn’t finish school, Ms. Belkofer said. She hopes more military families come forward in the future.
Edward Nycz went through boot camp in Parris Island, S.C., and was stationed in Quantico, Va., before being deployed.
The young Marine then reported to the Pacific area, a major theater of World War II from November, 1944, until March, 1946.
After years of war, he returned home to Rossford and married his wife Anne, and built a home using a Sears Roebuck kit.
Edward Nycz went on to have a 40-year career at the Toledo Sears Roebuck, where he was in charge of shipping and receiving at the Westgate store, his son said.
Edward Nycz remained active in Rossford American Legion Post 533, where he was a past post commander until his death in 2008.
He participated in Rossford’s Memorial Day parade every year. He even marched in the parade for 10 years, almost one month before his death.
He took pride in marching side-by-side with his fellow veterans while brandishing an American flag, Jim Nycz said.
During Sunday’s parade, Joe Nycz, another son, held back tears as he made comments after receiving his father’s diploma.
Growing up, Joe Nycz said, his father didn’t talk much about what he experienced during the war.
“But one thing we knew for sure, my dad was proud to be a U.S. Marine.
“The way we knew, because he made us memorize the first verse of the Marines’ Hymn.”
That’s the one that goes,
From the Halls of Montezuma
To the shores of Tripoli;
We fight our country’s battles
In the air, on land, and sea;
First to fight for right and freedom
And to keep our honor clean;
We are proud to claim the title
Of United States Marine.
© 2018 The Blade (Toledo, Ohio)
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.