EAST PEORIA — Fallen service members may now be posthumously awarded high school degrees, under a law signed Friday by Gov. JB Pritzker.

The legislation, proposed by state Rep. Mike Unes, permits the schools to grant the diplomas for service members who left school prior to graduating to serve in the military and were killed in action.

It was inspired by a conversation with Canton Union School District Superintendent Rolf Sivertsen.

Three students in the Vietnam War era who left Canton High School before graduation to enlist in the military were killed in action. If their families requested, they could now receive diplomas.

"The thought of this was to create a way to honor their memory, honor their families, honor their remaining friends with a small token of thanks for the service they gave to their country," Unes said of their discussion.

He praised the work Canton already does with its programming for students throughout the year — particularly around Veterans Day — in helping students understand the role of military service.

"This is just another reminder to each of the students that we can never forget those who fought for our freedom," Unes said.

Sivertsen thanked Unes for his work on the legislation and called him a "great advocate for veterans."

House Bill 2177 passed both houses unanimously.