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World War II Veteran Receives High School Diploma

Graduation time is here. High school seniors will walk across the stage to get their diplomas and recognition for their hard work. Commencement is even more special for one graduating senior, as in "senior" citizen. High school graduation night is always a special time, the young men and women dressed up in their caps and gowns. News On 6 anchor Craig Day reports 101 diplomas will be handed out at Locust Grove, one of them to Willard Cole.

“I wanted to graduate so this gives me the chance. And I'm going to take the best of it,” said Willard Cole.

Willard Cole was 18 back in 1943 when he went off to war. He spent 21 months overseas as a machine gunner and wasn't able to graduate from high school, until now.

"He's really a good guy,” said Willard Cole’s son Steve Cole. “He's been a great dad, not just to me and my brothers, but other people too. He's a super guy."

Oklahoma law allows veterans of WWII, Korea, and Vietnam who left school prior to graduation to serve in the military to get their diplomas. Ten of those veterans are now part of the class of 2007.

This night is memorable for all of those veterans, to hear the applause, to be recognized. For Willard Cole it is especially meaningful, being surrounded by his family including a granddaughter who got here just in time.

Sergeant Diann Cole got home from her second tour of duty in Iraq, 24 hours ago, just in time for granddad’s big night. Her two weeks of leave couldn't have come at a better time.

"He came to my high school graduation and I also graduated from Northeastern State University. And he came to my college graduation,” said Diann Cole.

"Now you're going to his graduation?” said News On 6 anchor Craig Day.

"Now I'm going to his graduation," said Diann Cole.

It's a wonderful night for the family, one more than 60 years in the making.

"I just thank God for all of the things he's done for me and my family," Willard Cole said.

Of the ten veterans getting diplomas in Locust Grove tonight, two served in World War II, two in the Korean War and six in Vietnam. Diann Cole will report back to duty June 2. She'll likely be in Iraq for another five and a half months.

Watch the video: Graduation Day For World War II Veteran
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