WWII veteran awarded high school diploma

Published 5:40 pm Wednesday, May 28, 2003

By By ROBERT BLANKENSHIP – Managing Editor
When the United States entered World War II, many of the nation's young men put their own lives on hold as they traveled overseas for battle. One of those veterans was finally able to pick up where he left off 60 years ago as he was awarded a diploma from T.R. Miller High School.
While most who received diplomas last week were 18 years old, Fred Dixon is 76, or 77 according to the affidavit his parents signed in 1943 stating he was 18 and old enough to join the military. At that time, Dixon was in the tenth grade and he figured he would return to his high school, T.R. Miller, and graduate after the war.
Dixon underwent basic training with the Coast Guard and afterward was placed in the Army's transportation division. His unit delivered gas to the troops who needed it for their tanks and other vehicles.
While Dixon said he was fortunate to not be on the front lines, he does remember that nobody was safe when the Americans landed on the beaches of Normandy. He was there that day, sitting on top of thousands of gallons of gasoline within firing range of German guns.
Dixon served 32 months in the Army. After serving additional time with the merchant marines, he returned to Brewton, but not to T.R. Miller High School.
finish school," he said. "But, by the time I came home I had decided to go to work. My dad was a contractor who built many of the buildings in Brewton. I went to work with him."
His father, C.Y. Dixon, was a local carpenter who built the original First National Bank and Brewton First Methodist Church. He even built the school that is now the house of the Brewton Board of Education. It was in that building where Dixon was awarded his diploma by Brewton Board of Education Superintendent Lynn Smith and T.R. Miller Principal Donnie Rotch.
The fact that Dixon did not get his diploma never stopped him from making the most of his own unique skills. After trying his hand at several different jobs, in 1958 he decided to make a living doing what he loved the most - landscaping and gardening. Today he runs Dixon Landscape and Design.
As he watched his own family grow, he saw five of his own children graduate from high school. Several of them went on to college and received degrees. His wife, Barbara Jean Dixon, also has an associate's degree. Over the years, he began to think more about not having a diploma.
Upon a visit to the Escambia County Veterans' Affairs (VA) office he saw that a new program had been introduced that allowed veterans like himself to receive their diploma. He did not sign up at that time, but his wife took up the cause later and worked with local school officials to surprise Dixon when he was handed his diploma last week.
The program, which is a partnership between the VA and the Alabama Department of Education, was made possible by the Alabama legislature. It makes possible for veterans of World War II and Korea to receive their diplomas under certain criteria.
Brewton Superintendent Lynn Smith said he believed the program serves as a great reminder to the sacrifices given by America's veterans.
Those who would like more information on the program may call Smith for criteria at 867-8400.
Dixon is the first veteran to utilize the diploma program through the Brewton School System.
While Dixon's diploma will not change his life or open new doors like it may for an 18-year-old, he still recognizes its significance.

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