By LISA M. REED
NORWAY - Robert "Cubby" Martignon Sr. received his high school diploma on Friday.
Lisa M. Reed/The Daily News Photo
Norway-Vulcan Area Schools Principal Joe Tinti, left, presents a diploma to Robert “Cubby” Martignon Sr. As a World War II veteran, Martignon was able to receive his high school diploma through Public Act 181 of 2001.
Martignon Sr. is a World War II veteran. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy after completing a final exam in his sophomore year at Norway High School.
"It's really nice to have. I didn't think it would be, but now that I got it in my hands, I feel very proud of it," said Martignon Sr. of his diploma.
Martignon Sr., 86, of Norway, is a wood carver and said he will probably make a frame to display his diploma.
Norway High School Principal Joe Tinti was excited about Martignon Sr. receiving his diploma.
The date on the diploma is Oct. 22, 2012, and was signed by Tinti, Superintendent Louis Steigerwald, and school board members Mary Pat Madigan, secretary and Candy Brew, president.
Tinti said a copy of Martignon's diploma will be stored in the vault at the school like all other graduates records.
Chuck Lantz, director of Office of Veterans Affairs serving Dickinson County, said under Michigan Public Act. 181 of 2001, a diploma is issued to a World War II veteran that didn't receive it because they enlisted in the U.S. Armed Services prior to graduation.
"His son pursued it for him and he applied through the high school under the Public Act," Lantz said.
Robert Martignon Jr. said he is glad his father was able to receive his diploma.
"Getting his diploma was something he always wanted," he said.
Martignon Jr. contacted Lantz, and once his father's honorable discharge papers were presented, research on the topic was done.
Martignon Sr. may be the first World War II veteran from Norway to receive a diploma after serving in the war.
World War II
Martignon Sr. said when he was sophomore in high school in 1944, he took his final exam and then turned it in and told his teacher he quit school and was joining the U.S. Navy. He was 17 years of age.
Martignon Sr. said his mother was against his decision.
"I was almost 18 when I enlisted, and she wouldn't sign the papers and said I would get drafted," he said.
The Norway native went on to serve 22 months in the U.S. Navy aboard an LCSL (landing craft support large).
"I missed the invasion of Okinawa by a month," he said. "But it wasn't over when I got there. We were supposed to go in with the Higgins boats (which carried in the U.S. Marines and U.S. Army), which fired rockets, 120 of them. Each one had six pounds of explosives in them and would destroy mine fields and clear the beach for Higgins boats to land."
Martignon Sr. said when the war ended, a lot of ships went to Japan, but he and his crewmates were sent to Korea and China to destroy mines and stop smugglers at the beginning of the Korean War.
"We had to make sure there were no guns or military on board (the other ships)," he said.
By January 1945, Martignon said the crew slowly made its way back to the United States.
"It took 28 days to get back from China, and the captain said we would go past Hawaii," he said.
Martignon said they did stop off in Hawaii for a mini vacation on the way back to the states.
Once back in Norway, Martignon worked at the Ford Motor Co. and then, while in Racine, Wis., he met his wife, Betty.
"I didn't like it down there, so we moved back to Norway and I got a job for the city of Norway as a wastewater treatment plant operator," he said.
He worked for the city until retirement.
His wife, Betty, died in 1992. The two had three children together.
Martignon Sr. wishes he would have pursued his diploma when he got out of the service as it would have helped him get jobs.
He credits gunnery school for teaching him how to fire guns during the service.
"Of all the places I have been, I've seen a lot, with Pearl Harbor and we took our supplies to Quadraline Island in the Pacific and from there, we went to Siban and then Okinawa," he said.
Martignon Jr. said he is glad his father survived the war.
"He was protecting a lot of vital areas. He shot down five Japanese planes and was almost shot. If the atomic bomb had not been dropped, he probably would have been killed," he said.
Martignon Jr. added his father sacrificed a lot for his country by leaving high school before graduation.
"I wish other people could see this. If my father could do this, so can they," he said about his father getting his diploma as a World War II veteran. "A diploma at that age group means a lot. It's a neat thing for me for my dad to get this. He has big smile on face."
Martignon Sr. has two other children, Father John Martignon of Houghton and a daughter, Sandra Johnson.
Lisa M. Reed's e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.