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North Putnam to honor veteran with diploma

Saturday, November 10, 2012

BAINBRIDGE -- The North Putnam graduation rate is on the rise, and that includes not just 2012, but the 1970s as well.

The school board voted last month to approve an honorary degree for former student Michael Lewis, who left school at 17 to join the Army.

"It's not a great story," Lewis said. "People do what they need to do."

Lewis approached the school recently and asked about the possibility of getting his diploma.

Superintendent Dan Noel brought the idea of awarding a high school diploma to Lewis to the North Putnam School Board at the September meeting, and the response was unanimously positive.

Noel talked about Lewis and the board agreed it would be a nice gesture to someone who has given back to his country.

That it is timed around Veterans Day only adds to that.

Lewis approached the school recently and asked about the possibility of getting his diploma.

Having spent the last 30 years working construction, he got jobs from experience and hadn't needed a diploma. But times are changing and construction is no longer a viable option.

Lewis enlisted in 1974 and served as a member the First and 41st Infantry, Second Armory Division.

He was young, recently married and had a child on the way.

"I wasn't a real military guy," Lewis said. "It was just the only thing I could think of to support my family."

Lewis left school in February of his senior year, during the height of the Vietnam War and the controversy surrounding it.

After his three-year stint ended, Lewis began living in Texas and working construction jobs that have taken him all over the country.

Eventually, after a lot of heartache, he found his way back to Putnam County.

The Bainbridge native was reluctant to speak about his personal life, but said he is currently married to the high school sweetheart that he enlisted to support.

Lewis recently suffered an injury serious enough to keep him from continuing construction work.

His quest for something else brought him back to North Putnam High School and, nearly four decades later, a diploma.

Indiana Department of Education law 20-20-7 allows eligible veterans to apply, at no fee, for a diploma if they left school before graduation to join the military.

Lewis said he is thankful to the school, and for the government, for working with him.

"Back in the '70s and '80s, lots of people dropped out of school to take care of their brothers and sisters," Lewis said. "I appreciate the government for allowing me to get my diploma."

Lewis served one term, and said had things been a little different he may have stayed in the service longer.

Although, like many Vietnam vets, he has faced obstacles -- personal, professional and otherwise -- Lewis has managed to keep working.

That drive will allow him to finally get a diploma from his high school.

With Veterans Day coming up Sunday, Lewis happy to see the appreciation and support military members have been getting, particularly in recent years.

Were it not for the holiday, Lewis said, he wouldn't have shared his story at all.

"I am a real patriot since my military days," Lewis said. "There are certain things you get from being in the military. Patriotism -- respect for your country -- is one of them."

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Way to go Uncle Mike! I am so proud of you!

Love ya!


-- Posted by funluvinnurse on Sat, Nov 10, 2012, at 10:06 PM

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