Two combat veterans who left high school to serve their country finally walked at their graduation ceremonies on Saturday after decades of waiting.
Joe Perricone, 95, was drafted to join the U.S. Army in 1943 during World War II, local station WFLA reported. He was attending Tampa, Florida’s Hillsborough High School at the time and was able to receive his diploma, but he missed out on the chance to attend his graduation, heading off to Europe instead.
With help from the school board, Perricone’s grandson, Judge Thomas Palermo, made sure he could join in on the graduation ceremony for the class of 2019 where he was handed a diploma and commended for his service.
“It means a lot to us that someone we love very much will finally live out his dream,” Palermo told NPR’s WUSF.
The same day, Bill William Arnold Craddock, 85, also received his degree from Volunteer Hill High School in Church Hill, Tennessee, local news station WJHL reported. At age 16, Craddock entered the Air Force then enlisted in the Korean War, leaving Science Hill High School where he had been enrolled.
Like Perricone, he, too, was welcomed to walk in the class of 2019’s ceremony and had a message for both the new graduates and the ones with whom he would have celebrated in 1953.
“I would tell that class to study hard and be good,” he said. “Learn all they can and get the best education they can get.”
Earlier this month, World War II veteran Pete Sabedra, 92, received his diploma alongside his grandson at Pennsylvania’s Derry Area High School almost 80 years after he would have graduated, local station WTAE reported.