Written for The Argus Observer. Published on May 24, 2015.
United States Navy veteran Roger Chockley, 68, will be receiving his high school diploma at Vale’s graduation today, 48 years after he was slated to graduate from high school, thanks to an Oregon state law.
Chockley, who went to high school in Macomb, Illinois, was living in Vale after retiring from over 40 years as a truck driver when he decided he wanted to go back into the workforce.
“I basically had enough [of truck driving],” Chockley said. “I’ve been everywhere and wanted to settle down.”
After a few months of the retired life, however, the former culinary specialist wanted to go back to his first love.
“Now I just want to get back into cooking,” Chockley said.
He met with Miguel Arredondo, a veterans’ representative for the Oregon Employment Department, in Ontario and the two began the process of finding Chockley a job.
Chockley had entered the service mid-way through high school, though and without a high school diploma, they didn’t get very far.
That’s when Arredondo found state law ORS 332.114, which allows veterans in Oregon to obtain their high school diploma through their town of residence if they didn’t graduate high school because of enlisting in the service.
“I immediately prepared a packet and sent it to Matt Hawley, the superintendent in Vale at the time, and we were able to get that approved,” Arredondo said. “Matt got the letter and he went right to it. I’ve got to hand it to the superintendent, he made this happen.”
Now Chockley’s official high school diploma is sitting at the Vale district office, just waiting to be accepted, but Chockley won’t be able to walk with the rest of the 2015 graduating class.
“He’s recently suffered a stroke,” said Arredondo. “They took him to the [veterans advocates] hospital in Boise and then he was taken to Kansas.”
Chockley said he has family in Kansas and is planning on staying in the state once he’s made enough progress in recovery to leave the hospital.
Arredondo will be accepting his diploma on Chockley’s behalf and will be sending it to him via mail.
“I’m really invested in this case and in Roger,” Arredondo said.
During his two years aboard the USS America CVA 66, Chockley cooked for a crew of 5,280 men, and he signed up for the Navy when he was just a sophomore in high school.
“I got tired of school and doing chores at home, so I just went down and signed up,” Chockley said. “I shipped out and went to boot camp August 31, 1965 and went to Spain in November of 1965.”
Chockley said his tour with the Navy took him around the world, but when he got out of the service, he wasn’t quite ready to stop exploring.
“I’d always had a love for trucks and for rodeoing,” Chockley said. “I was a bull rider and a team roper and a steer wrestler and I was a truck driver.”
Chockley drove trucks throughout the United States for 46 years after coming home.
“I love the open road and I love seeing different things,” Chockley said. “I love new country and new people.”
Now Chockley is ready to hit the ground running once again and plans to go to culinary school as soon as he receives his diploma.
“I’m going to go back to culinary school, possibly in Chicago or Dallas,” Chockley said. “I was a chef and I’m ready to do that again.”