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Milton Mockerman, a WWII veteran, gets his high school diploma after 71 years

Alex A
Photo Credit: Mark Milton/ CNN
Photo Credit: Mark Milton/ CNN

When Milton Mockerman was 16 years old, the Second World War was still being fought. The young American felt the need and obligation to serve his country, so instead of staying on at school, Milton forged his birth certificate and applied to join the U.S. Armed Forces.

At the recruitment camp, the officers on duty looked at him with suspicion, but since they were short on men, they accepted the teenager’s application. So, in 1944, Milton Mockerman was enlisted and joined the Navy, where he served until the war was over. Spending two years on a ship in the Pacific instead of school, the young soldier never managed to finish high school and earn his diploma.

While he was serving in the Navy, Mockerman was promised his high school diploma once they got back home. This promise was never fulfilled. While he was away, the Kalkaska High School in Kalkaska, Michigan, where he was supposed to earn his diploma, burned to the ground in 1946. Together with the school, the entire student documentation was gone, including the file containing the records of Milton Mockerman. However, when Milton realized that earning his diploma was a seemingly impossible task, he did not despair.

Back in Michigan, he changed jobs several times, before becoming employed at the railroad in Muskegon. In the meanwhile, the veteran got married and had a son. In 1987, after 31 years of work at the railroad, Mockerman retired, completely forgetting about his high school diploma.

In the past few years, however, the veteran felt something was missing. He began revisiting the idea of earning his G.E.D and high school diploma. Even though he was 71 years late for that, he still decided to contact the school and ask for a second chance.

When he established contact with the school, the principal of Kalkaska High School, John Sattler, was deeply touched by the veteran’s story. “We got a phone call from Milton Mockerman wondering if there were any classes he could take to finish his graduation,” Sattler told CNN. The principal and his secretary decided to help him and sent an inquiry to the local board of education, asking if they could award the veteran with an honorary diploma.

The board voted unanimously, and the decision was made: The veteran would get his high school diploma. When Mockerman and his son arrived at the school to find out about the terms for the diploma, they were delighted to hear the positive news. Milton Mockerman was allowed to graduate with the senior class of Kalkaska High School.

Mockerman was 89 years old when he accomplished his dream. The graduating ceremony was held on May 28, 2017, and the veteran proudly paraded on the graduation stage. His family, including his grandkids, came from all across the country to be part of one of the happiest days of Mockerman’s life. Before he graduated, Milton spent some time with the students at the school and spoke about his experience in World War II. At the same time, he taught the kids about the importance of education.

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He also spoke at the graduating ceremony. When he was asked about what he said at the speech, the veteran replied: “I didn’t know what to say, so I just kind of told them, ‘Well, you’ve proved to me today that this high school graduating class must be smarter than I am. Because what they took four years to do, it took me 71 years to come to that conclusion.’ “