Tears flowed during a Veterans Day observance Friday when family members were presented with a high school diploma in honor of Neil R. Scott, who left Hillsboro High School early to serve in the Korean War and has never returned home.
“It’s hard to express the feelings. We were much touched and moved by it. We, the whole family, are very much appreciative of everything that’s been done. It’s unreal,” said Montey Scott, Neil’s younger brother. “I’m just glad I didn’t have to say anything. I was getting pretty choked up.”
The afternoon ceremony took place shortly following the annual 11 a.m. Veterans Day observance at Hillsboro VFW Post 9094, and many veterans and others attended both events.
Neil Scott was a junior at HHS when he asked his parents if he could join the Army. Montey was 14 years his junior and said he doesn’t remember a lot about his brother. But he does have one vivid memory.
“Back then Hershey bars were something and they came in a six-pack,” Montey said. “One day mom got some and I saw where they were at. I told Neil and we got into them. Mom found out. She got to Neil first and he got in trouble, while I disappeared. Dad knew. He was sitting on the couch and saw it all, but he never gave me away.”
Neil was the son of Andrew and Seymoura (Chaney) Scott. They raised their family on Willettsville Pike near where Restoration Acres is now located, and Montey lives about a mile away from the homestead.
After leaving high school Neil became a medic in the U.S. Army’s 21st Infantry Regiment. He was deployed to Korea when hostilities broke out, according to the Highland Veterans Service Commission.
“His unit was among the first American troops to engage in combat in Korea in July of 1950,” a letter the Veterans Service Commission sent to the Hillsboro Board of Education said. “The initial battle did not go well and Neil was among 750 who were captured by the North Koreans. They were marched north to an area near the Chinese border. He survived until Jan. 31, 1951, when survivors of the captivity state he succumbed to the extremely harsh conditions and was buried there. His remains have never been recovered.”
According to Ohio Administrative Code, a high school diploma may be awarded to any living World War II, Korean Conflict, or Vietnam Conflict veteran, or posthumously to a living relative, who left a public or nonpublic school located in any state prior to graduation in order to serve in the armed forces of the United States.
In September, Montey petitioned the Hillsboro Board of Education for his brother’s diploma. The board said it was more than happy to comply.
“It’s a complete honor for the school board to present this diploma to Neil’s family. …He is a hero,” Hillsboro Superintendent Jim Smith told the more than 20 Scott family members and hundreds of Hillsboro students in grades 6-12 that attended the observance.
Montey said he didn’t know what to think when Kevin Barreras, vice president of the Highland County Veterans Service Commission, told him that Neil was eligible to receive a diploma.
“It was a shock after all these years,” Montey said.
The family said proceedings for Neil to get his diploma were started by Hillsboro veteran Denver Conley.
Conley said he was a freshman at HHS when Neil was sophomore. He said he didn’t learn what happened to Neil until about 15 years ago when he was talking to a friend that rode the school bus with Neil.
“Anyway, I haven’t forgot him,” Conley said.
The observance at the VFW featured Clinton County Veterans Service Office Director Ray Souder detailing benefits the service offices located in all 88 Ohio counties can help veterans with. Before that, Hillsboro VFW Commander Rick Wilkin gave a few details about Veterans Day.
“Many Americans mistakenly believe that Veterans Day is the day America sets aside to honor American military personnel who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained from combat. That’s not quite true,” Wilkin said. “Memorial Day is the day set aside to honor America’s war dead.
“Veterans Day, on the other hand, honors all American veterans, both living and dead. In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank living veterans for dedicated and loyal service to their country. November 11 of each year is the day that we ensure veterans know that we deeply appreciate the sacrifices they have made in their lives to keep our country free.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.