For this Kent graduate, ceremony was extra sweet

Many Kent-Meridian High School students won’t look twice at the piece of paper they receive upon completion of their high-school careers, but Terry Hauge will treasure his.

  • BY Wire Service
  • Friday, July 11, 2008 12:45am
  • News
Vietnam War veteran Terry Hague displays the Kent-Meridian High School diploma he recently received along with the Class of 2008.

Vietnam War veteran Terry Hague displays the Kent-Meridian High School diploma he recently received along with the Class of 2008.

Terry Hauge gets diploma 48 years later

Many Kent-Meridian High School students won’t look twice at the piece of paper they receive upon completion of their high-school careers, but Terry Hauge will treasure his.

He waited a long time for it.

The 66-year-old Kent resident proudly walked across the Tacoma Dome stage last month to receive his diploma along with the Kent-Meridian Class of 2008. He should have walked with the school’s Class of 1960, but family life, a classroom fight and the Vietnam War delayed his commencement for almost half a century.

“The thing that really got me is when the principal asked me to stand up to tell everyone about why I was there — and the roar in that Tacoma Dome,” Hauge said, choking up. “I think maybe that was the thank you I’ve been waiting for.”

The graduation experience was particularly meaningful to him, he said. It has filled a glaring gap in an otherwise full life.

Hauge was born in Ada, Minn., the second oldest in a large Catholic family of nine children. The family moved to Kent when Hague was just a baby, his father, John Hauge, operating three businesses in town — Kent Secondhand Store, Kent Delivery Service and a downtown restaurant.

Between helping out at the family businesses and his uncle’s construction company, Hauge Construction, Hauge said he grew up working hard, and his high-school years were particularly busy.

“We couldn’t really be active in sports or anything because we were so busy working before and after school,” he said. “We all worked hard.”

Hauge had to leave Kent-Meridian toward the end of his junior year to play an even larger part in the businesses of his father, who was having heart problems. The school gave him a leave of absence, agreeing to advance him to his senior year as long as he maintained exemplary grades and behavior. But Hauge was a boxer.

When he returned to school his senior year, fisticuffs broke out in class between he and another student, and his agreement was broken. He was expelled.

“Back in those days, we were all fighters,” Hauge laughed. “It was mostly just friendly boxing matches, but that one got me in trouble.”

He worked for several years after that, getting his GED and enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps instead of returning to school. His family was steeped in military tradition — one of his uncles, Louis Hauge, Jr., earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for his service in World War II. Continuing that tradition was always one of Hauge’s lifelong dreams.

“My uncle’s picture always hung in my aunt’s house, but it wasn’t just that,” he said. “It was that so many of them served. I always felt that if it wasn’t for the World War II vets, none of us would be here today.”

Hauge entered the service in 1964, beginning what would be four years of active duty in Vietnam. He says the good memories — those of the friendships he made with his fellow soldiers — are still with him, but the bad memories are more prominent.

“I’d say half of my guys were killed or wounded,” he said. “I have my flashbacks.”

He said he was in multiple combat situations, but he left the service in 1968 without any injuries. He thanks God for protecting him.

“I had shrapnel fly past my head that sounded like the biggest bumble bee you ever heard in your life,” Hague said. “But (God) looked after me. He and I talked every day.”

The veteran served in multiple roles during his tours, rising to the rank of staff sergeant by the time he ended his active duty. He also earned the Combat “V” medal, a medal of valor, for his service.

Though the U.S. government showed its thanks for Hauge’s war time, the American people had a seemingly different attitude toward the war and its soldiers.

“After we got out, there was no praise, no hoorah,” he said.

He said when he returned, he heard about two fellow soldiers who had been shot in the back immediately upon their return just for being soldiers. He ditched his uniform and laid low for the next year, eventually moving to California to continue his life and a career in construction.

Hauge has since become an active veteran who feels passionately about ensuring that other vets are honored and the rest of the country doesn’t forget their sacrifice.

While living in California, he worked on several projects to do so — refurbishing a prominent Vietnam War memorial and selling T-shirts to raise money to take 42 people to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. He also has worked with fellow veterans to help them secure the medals they earned for their service so they can display them proudly and pass them on to future generations.

Hauge has accomplished much over the years, but he said his lack of a high-school diploma always nagged at him, especially when he was raising his five kids.

“It always bothered me not having it, because I always pushed school with all my kids and they’ve all done so well,” he said.

Now living in Kent, Hauge got a chance to remedy that last month when his girlfriend, Susan Greathouse, called the Kent School District inquiring about the possibility of a late graduation. Hauge was eligible to receive his diploma through a government veterans program, called Operation Recognition, and he was fitted with cap and gown for the Kent-Meridian ceremony June 14.

“It was a pleasure that is hard to put into words,” Greathouse said of seeing Hauge graduate. “It was like them saying the time you served did matter, the time you served did mean something to us.”

Hauge agrees. He had tears in his eyes when he recounted the feeling of being honored in front of the graduation crowd. He said he’s thankful to those who made it happen.

“I would like to thank the Kent School District administration, Kent-Meridian High School administration and the Class of 2008 for the warm welcome and open arms in walking me through the graduation ceremony,” Hauge said. “It really meant a lot to me.”

For more information about Operation Recognition, visit the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs Web site, www.dva.wa.gov/operationrecognition.html.

Contact Daniel Mooney at 253-437-6012 or dmooney@reporternewspapers.com.


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