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About 52 years ago, Denny Lyman’s new brother-in-law suggested one day they go downtown to the military recruiting office and sign up. Uncle Sam didn’t want to take a newlywed from his bride, but Lyman was free and clear.
“They sent me on to Louisville that afternoon, and he was standing down on Broadway waving at me on the Greyhound. So that’s how I joined the Marine Corps, and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done,” Lyman recalled.
Another “best thing” was finally receiving his high school diploma, which the Fayette County Board of Education presented at its April 30 public meeting.
FCPS awards an authentic diploma to any honorably discharged veteran who was enrolled but did not complete high school before induction into the U.S. armed forces during the eras of World War II, the Korean conflict or the Vietnam War.
“It gives a great example to our students of self-sacrifice and shows there are people who are willing to look out for others before they look out for themselves,” said board chairman John Price. “Every board member, as we shook (Lyman’s) hand, thanked him for his service to his country and thanked him
for what he’d done on our behalf.”
One of eight children, Lyman had left school mid-way through 10th grade.
“I was working a regular job and helping the family out. There were others younger than me I was helping buy clothes to go to school,” he explained.
Later, instead of graduating from Lafayette High in 1960, he was settling in to the military. Two older brothers also were in the Marine Corps at the time.
Lyman was stationed at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base from December 1961 until June 1963. Amid the tension-filled Cuban Missile Crisis, he completed his GED.
“That’s one of those things I regret – that I couldn’t go on and finish (high) school,” he said.
After the service, he worked as a firefighter for about 11 years and later joined Ford Motor Co. in Louisville, retiring in 2000. He enjoys hunting, fishing, UK sports, church, travel and, of course, his grandchildren. He’s also active in the Marine Corps League, which is how he found out about the possibility of getting a belated diploma.
After some calls to Frankfort and the school district here, he found himself in the spotlight at the board meeting.
“I wished I could have received a diploma the right way, walking up on the stage,” Lyman said. “But it’s good they recognize people who couldn’t finish school back in those days.”
His wife, Jan, spread the news by phone and on Facebook, saying everyone in the family was thrilled.
“Even though he didn’t get his degree up front, education is very important to him and he’s passed it along,” she said, noting that three granddaughters have graduated from college so far.
“He’d always, always wanted to get his diploma. He just wanted that piece of paper,” she said. “We’re going to frame it and put in up there with his other awards.”