Wilson School Board members will pay tribute to Korean War veteran Edward H. Lester tonight when they belatedly award him his high school diploma more than 60 years after he answered the call of duty.
Lester, 81, left high school in Wilson and enlisted in the Marine Corps on Jan. 25, 1951, to serve in the Korean War, leaving behind not only school, but life on the family farm on Daniels Road.
“We’re going to recognize Mr. Lester for his dedication to our country,” Wilson High School Principal Daniel Johnson said. “It is over 60 years late but very well-deserved.”
The diploma will be awarded at 7:30 p.m. in the high school auditorium on Lake Street.
A private first class, Lester was honorably discharged Jan. 24, 1954, and returned to Wilson. He and his wife, Ella, raised six children, also on a farm, across the street from the family homestead on Daniels. He also worked as an operating engineer to support the family.
Modest about his military service, he will tell loved ones, when asked about his time in the armed forces, “I was not the only one fighting the war.”
Lester is receiving his diploma through the New York State Division of Veterans Affairs program Operation Recognition, which accredits veterans who left high school to serve in wars with a diploma.
During his service, Lester spent a year on the Korean Peninsula.
The Lester family traces its roots back several generations in Wilson, and many family members are expected to attend the ceremony tonight.
“I think programs like Operation Recognition are great. They show the world the importance of education,” said Ruth Anne Buzzard, one of Lester’s daughters. “And with veterans who answered a higher calling at a young age coming back years later to receive a diploma, it shows how much it means to them.
“They learned a lot in the service and had to grow up fast.”