It may have taken World War II veteran Milton Mockerman 89 years to receive his high school diploma, but on Saturday, he was able to fulfill his lifelong dream of walking up on stage and receiving his diploma, 71 years later than expected.
Mockerman, 89, received an honorary diploma from Kalkaska High School in Michigan.
At the age of 16, Mockerman forged his birth certificate and left high school to join the Navy in 1944 during the last few years of World War II.
“I was getting unruly at home and I kept telling my dad, ‘I’m going in the Navy,’ ” Mockerman told FOX 17. “I felt it was my duty to go do what I could.”
Mockerman served in the Navy for more than two years and spent two of those years on a ship in the Pacific Ocean.
Mockerman was told he could exchange his service for schooling and would be allowed to graduate high school after returning home, but it never happened because his high school burned down in 1946.
After working several jobs, he ended up working on the railroad for 31 years.
Mockerman and his son reached out to administrators at Kalkaska High School earlier this year to see if he could earn his G.E.D.
Upon hearing his story, Kalkaska High School Principal John Sattler and his secretary asked the Board of Education if they could award Mockerman an honorary diploma, to which the board unanimously voted in favor of.
At the graduation ceremony, Mockerman said a few words to the high school seniors receiving their diplomas.
“I found that this class is smarter than I am,” Mockerman joked. “It took me 71 years from the time I first came here, and they only took four years.”
“It was one of the greatest things I’ve seen,” Mark Mockerman, Milton Mockerman’s son told CNN. “My dad hasn’t had a lot of notoriety, and he deserves it, because he’s been the kind of dad that everyone should have had. He’s always there for me.”