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Korean War veteran receives his high-school diploma 69 years later

Veteran Charles Theodore Horn would have graduated in 1950 but left school a half-credit short of graduation to enlist in the Ohio Air National Guard. He later joined the U.S. Air Force and served in the Korean War. Now, 69 years later, Horn holds his diploma that he received on Monday, August 12, 2019, at a special ceremony at Gahanna Lincoln High School. [Fred Squillante/Dispatch]

Charles Theodore Horn was a Sunday school teacher in the 1970s. A humble community leader and a man of character and faith, he made an impact on a young boy who recently moved to central Ohio.

That young boy, now 48-year-old Matt Allison, wanted to pay it forward.

When he recently learned that Horn, an 86-year-old Korean War veteran, had left high school and enlisted in the military just a half-credit short of receiving his diploma, Allison contacted Gahanna Lincoln High School to see what could be done. He had read a newspaper article about Ohio veterans receiving honorary diplomas for their service, he said.

Early Monday morning, Horn’s alma mater delivered.

Donning a blue cap and gown and marching to “Pomp and Circumstance” played by the high school band, Horn finally accepted his diploma in the school auditorium — 69 years later. Hundreds of employees of the Gahanna-Jefferson school district, who were kicking off the school year with an annual meeting, filled the auditorium. The ceremony was a surprise for the crowd.

“It was beautiful,” Horn said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

After the event, family and friends from Horn’s church gathered in the school atrium to pose for pictures. Allison still attends Havens Corners Church in Blacklick, where Horn is now a first elder.

“Are you going to go outside and throw your hat?” Horn’s children quipped.

Their father smirked.

“I don’t know if I have the energy,” he replied.

But he did it anyway in the atrium. His family and friends cheered.

Horn would have graduated in 1950, the year he left school to enlist in the Ohio Air National Guard. He would later join the U.S. Air Force and then the Ohio National Guard. He was honorably discharged in 1955 and then transitioned from fueling fighter jets to fueling tractor-trailers for the U.S. Postal Service. He drove for the Postal Service for about 38 years, transporting mail between Columbus and Akron and Youngstown.

While at Lincoln High School, Horn was a star lineman on the football team and named team captain and most valuable player his senior year.

He has been married to his wife, Phyllis, for 63 years. They have four children (Ann Price, Gary Horn, Cindy Morley and Chuck Horn), eight grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren. Most of the family still lives in or near Gahanna.

Gahanna-Jefferson superintendent Steve Barrett said bestowing veteran diplomas is an exciting honor for Ohio schools.

At their meeting last week, for example, Columbus Board of Education members presented an honorary diploma to veteran Daniel Clark, who left South High School in 1965 to enlist in the Navy during the Vietnam War.


© 2019 The Columbus Dispatch