Spaulding High School in Barre, Vermont, honored two former students who left school in the 1940s to join the war effort during World War II.
Russell Brown and Francis Taft both received the high school diplomas they never received as young men.
"It's about the nicest thing that could happen to me," Taft said. "That's about all I can say."
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Brown left Spaulding in 1943, and Taft left in 1944, their families said. It was not an uncommon move for teenagers during the war. Both men joined the U.S. Navy.
"The sacrifice of these many young people helped uphold liberty and shape the world as we know it today," observed Cadet Lt. Col. Aiden Reardon, a member of the Spaulding Jr. ROTC, who delivered prepared remarks during Thursday's graduation ceremony at the school.
Brown returned from service to the Navy and had a long career as a butcher in Schenectady, New York, according to his biography read during the program.
Taft returned to central Vermont and worked in equipment sales and construction, a speaker told a crowd of students, school faculty and administrators, and family members of the veterans.
Both men had families and said they are as proud of their children and grandchildren as they are of them.
With Brown and Taft in their late 80s, those families hoped the Navy veterans could finally get the diplomas they never received. They worked with Veterans Affairs officials and school administrators to get the balls rolling for Thursday’s event.
"He wanted it so bad," said Leah Taft, Francis Taft's wife. "He had been thinking of this for many, many years. More than 70, now!"
"It's never too late to catch your dreams and follow them," added Kim Conti, Russell Brown's daughter.
Spaulding administrators said they were very happy to give the men their due.
"I'm glad to get it," Russell Brown said of his diploma. "It made me feel proud!"
The pair both said they will treasure their diplomas, and display them in their homes.