Air Force veteran receives CHS diploma

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Korean War veteran Troy Howard, right, received Clovis High School diplomas for himself and his brother Saturday during commencement wearing his Air Force uniform from the 1950s. Clovis Municipal Schools Superintendent Terry Myers, left, said it was an honor to recognize the Howard twins.

Liliana Castillo

After 54 years, being kidnapped and working as a migrant worker through out his childhood, Air Force veteran Troy Howard received his high school diploma from Clovis High School during commencement Saturday.

Howard, a Victoria, Texas, resident, accepted his and his twin brother Roy Howard’s diplomas.

Howard describes the road to his diploma as hellish, a border-line nightmare.

“I didn’t sit in a classroom every day like others did,” he said. “It was a hard road.”

The brothers and their two sisters were kidnapped by their father in 1941. They traveled with migrant Mexicans from farm to farm across Texas and into New Mexico picking cotton.

They left their home in Bowie, Texas, each year and worked almost year-round, including in the fall when most children headed to school.

“Our father put no matter into going to school,” Howard said. “He wanted us to work.”

Howard said he and his brother picked 500 pounds of cotton daily, but the money they earned funded their father’s party lifestyle.

When the brothers did go to school, it was for short periods of time and they fell behind. Their father wouldn’t spend money on paper and pencils for school either, forcing the brothers to scavenge supplies out of trash cans.

“Whatever had a barn or a cellar or a chicken coop, we camped out there and worked in the fields,” Howard said.

At the age of 10, their mother found them and they were able to attend school for four years from fourth through eighth grade in Clovis and the surrounding areas.

At the age of 16, the twin brothers convinced their mother to allow them to enlist in the Air Force. When President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed an armistice, the brothers chances of going into combat disappeared, leaving them wanting more. Specifically, an education.

The Howard brothers worked through high school in the Air Force while working with military prisoners in England in the Air Patrol.

They received orders back to Victoria one credit short of the 15 required in Texas to receive a high school diploma.

Then, Howard discovered because he had enlisted in New Mexico, he had to fulfill the state’s requirements of 16 credits.

An educator told Howard that getting a GED would be a good way to solve his problem. Howard didn’t agree.

“A GED isn’t a high school diploma,” he said. “That’s not what I wanted.”

A law passed in New Mexico in 2003 entitling those who enlisted during the Korean War to receive their high school diplomas. Howard had found a way to achieve his dream.

His brother Roy Howard died in 2004 but Troy Howard said he knows his brother would have been as honored as he felt during the ceremony.

CMS Superintendent Terry Myers said it was emotional, sitting next to Howard through out the ceremony. He said Howard fought back tears through most of commencement.

“There is not a better way to say thank you to our veterans who have served our country and have foregone their education to do that. They deserve our recognition,” Myers said. “It’s a great thing.”

Howard went on to attend Eastern New Mexico University and majored in business administration. He now owns a construction company in Victoria, Texas. He married his wife Linda Howard in 1963 and they have two children.

Howard’s son Andy Howard attended commencement with his father.

“This is a piece that’s missing in my dad’s life,” Andy Howard said. “I can’t say how important it is that he has that. It’s closure to say the least after all he’s gone through in his life.”

Andy Howard said his father made sure to be a better father to his children than his father was to him and his siblings.

“I wouldn’t have any other father,” he said. “He’s hardworking. He made sure he took care of his family.”