Thursday, May 16, 2002

Diplomas honor service to country

Milford rewards six who left school for WWII

By Lew Moores,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MILFORD — Michael Pangallo held his high school diploma in his hand following the graduation ceremony at Milford High School.

        He is 80 years old, and his voice cracked just a bit.

        “It means a lot. It's really wonderful,” said Mr. Pangallo. “But this is more for him than anything.”

[photo] Eugene Armstrong Jr., 75, shows his new diploma to his grand-daughter, Andrea Lykins, 14.
(Glenn Hartong photos)
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        “Him” is his grandson, Michael Pangallo, a 15-year-old Milford High School junior who died in June of a rare heart condition, shocking the school community.

        Mr. Pangallo never graduated from high school. Until Wednesday.

        Instead, at age 17, he went off to World War II with the Army and served in the infantry in Europe.

        Wednesday afternoon, in an emotional ceremony at Milford High, Mr. Pangallo was one of six World War II veterans — all of whom left school to answer their country's call — to be awarded high school diplomas.

        Sixteen and 17 years old, they left and joined the Army and Navy during the war years. When they returned, they went to work and raised families.

        Their step has slowed a bit, but they walked smartly to the podium at the school's gymnasium as Larry Hook, Milford principal, handed the six their diplomas:

        Mr. Pangallo of Milford; Charles Benson, 75, of Loveland; and Eugene Armstrong Jr., 75, Luther Money, 80, Eugene Wolf, 74, and John Padgett, 78, all of Milford.

[photo] World War II veteran Michael Pangallo is escorted by Milford High School senior Laura Railing past saluting members of the Live Oaks Army Junior ROTC in Milford on Wednesday.
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        A state law signed last year gives school districts the ability to award high school diplomas to all veterans who left school to serve, said Valerie Miller, communications coordinator for the Milford school district.

        “I came back and went to work to feed my family,” said Mr. Pangallo, one of 16 children who then raised a family of eight.

        The veterans need not have attended school in Milford to be awarded a diploma. Mr. Pangallo, for instance, left school in Newport, Ky. But they all live in the area.

        Mr. Armstrong was the exception. He was born and raised in Milford and left Milford High school to serve in the Navy.

        “Naturally, it means a lot to me to get this,” said Mr. Armstrong. “But I think it means more to my family — they're the ones getting a kick out of it.”

        A couple of the veterans were good-humored about the ceremony.

        “I need this to get a job,” said Mr. Wolf, who served in the Navy, holding his diploma.

        “But, really, this is nice. And the other guys feel the same way.”

        About 15 members of Mr. Pangallo's family — including grandson Joe, who will graduate May 31 from Milford High — attended the graduation.

        Stephanie Pangallo, 22, the late Michael's sister, said she was proud when she heard her grandfather's name read.

        “Just to hear the name said at a graduation was indescribable,” said Ms. Pangallo. “It's been hard. But I'm very proud of my grandfather. I've always looked up to him. He's been a role model, with all his hard work.

        “It's wonderful to see him get a little bit of recognition.”


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