World War II Marine Corps veteran, 98, receives diploma two days before death

World War II Marine Corps veteran, 98, receives diploma two days before death


The 98-year-old veteran, who enlisted in the Marines during World War II at age 17, received his high school diploma two days before his death.

Richard Lemp, who was in hospice care in Maryland, received his diploma on Friday thanks to a frantic effort by his school’s principal to drive 4 1/2 hours to get there and receive it on time. Lemp died Sunday, said James Capuchilli, second vice commander of the American Legion Local 247 in Poolesville, Md.

“It’s all dominoes falling,” said Capchiri, a Marine Corps veteran. “And if one small piece was missing, none of this would have happened.”

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During World War II, Lemp enlisted in the Marines at age 17 and would serve for more than two decades, DC News Now reported in 2021.

Lemp served as a gunnery sergeant and a door gunner in the Vietnam War, Capuccilli said, pointing out that he could have avoided that dangerous job, but chose it anyway.

While on a reconnaissance mission in Vietnam in December 1966, Lemp helped rescue nine Marines who were surrounded by Viet Cong forces, DC News Now reported. According to the paper, Lemp’s helicopter hovered over a pickup area for more than an hour while under fire, firing more than 1,000 rounds at the enemy forces before successfully rescuing the Marines.

Though he proved to be a tough man throughout his life, Lemp was a warm-hearted man and a “lovely guy,” Cappuccili said.

“You would never know he was a Marine other than we talked about the Marines a lot,” he said.

Capchiri said Lemp had a mischievous sense of humor and said the 90-year-old was “very funny, very funny.”

In February, Mr. Capchiri, a former high school career guidance counselor, had the idea to honor Mr. Lemp by awarding him his high school diploma. He initially believed Lemp was a graduate of Sharon High School in Sharon, Pennsylvania, and contacted officials at the school.

Sharon City School District Superintendent Justi Glaros agreed to immediately sit down with the school board to see what can be done.

Glaros learned that Pennsylvania allows veterans who didn’t graduate from high school to receive their high school diplomas because they served in World War II, the Korean War or the Vietnam War — Lemp served in all three wars.

“The board had 100 percent, no question, that we wanted to award Mr. Lemp an honorary degree,” Glaros said.

However, while examining the yearbook, it was discovered that there had been a mix-up. Lemp actually attended another high school nearby. The school’s committee set out to obtain a diploma.

On May 14, Capuchili learned that Lemp had been diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer and was in hospice care. He called Glaros to let her know that Lemp was in a serious condition and to thank her for all her efforts.

Glaros wasn’t giving up. She asked nearby schools if they could deliver Lemp’s diploma within a few days, but school officials said they could not expedite the process.

So Glaros consulted his school board president and had Lemp’s diploma printed Friday morning. Worried that he wouldn’t be able to reach Lemp in time by mail, he decided to make the four-and-a-half hour drive to Maryland himself.

Capchiri said that when Glaros got out of the car, he told her: “You’re going to heaven. Thanks to this performance, you’re going to heaven.”

For Glaros, meeting a World War II veteran was like meeting a rock star, she said. At first, she was nervous.

“It was just an incredible honor to be able to give that to him,” she said. “When I talked to him, it was like we had known each other forever.”

“I’m so happy,” Lemp told family and friends gathered at his bedside, according to ABC7.

“You have no idea what this means to me. I will cherish this for the rest of my life,” Lemp said, according to the media.

The next day, Saturday, Lemp was proud of his diploma even as he began to weaken, said Julian Shinn, a Marine Corps veteran and commander of the American Legion of Veterans Affairs Branch 247. Told.

Glaros said she was glad she had the opportunity to give back to Lemp, and she said she tries to teach her students the importance of being kind to others.

“For me, it was a no-brainer,” she said. “It was just an act of kindness.”



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