Two brave veterans who fought for our country many decades ago finally got a chance to fulfill their graduation dreams this year.
Joe Perricone and Bill William Arnold Craddock both went off to war and missed walking across the stage with their peers.
Perricone is now 95. He was called up for duty in 1943 before the ceremony at Hillsborough High School in Tampa, Florida. Instead, he went off to serve in Europe during WWII.
“The draft board said you go and serve your country and be a big boy,” he told CBS12.
Meanwhile, Craddock, now 85, left school in Tennessee to join the Air Force at age 16 during the Korean War, making him unable to graduate with the class of 1953.
In separate ceremonies in their home states, each man finally got the pomp and circumstance of a graduation this year.
76 years after missing graduation, Perricone’s family decided to put a plan in motion.
His grandson, Circuit Court judge Tom Palermo, who had long heard his grandfather lament over not being able to graduate, contacted the high school, who agreed to let him walk across the stage and receive his diploma.
Principal Gary Brady greeted the family and handed Perricone his cap and gown. In a video of the ceremony, he welcomed the alumnus to a huge round of applause, noting:
“He was honorably discharged in 1946. He has been married to his wife for 72 years. He will be receiving his long overdue and well-earned diploma with the class of 2019, 76 years after his own graduation day.”
“I never thought I’d get one of these,” said Perricone, holding his graduation tassel.
He was joined on stage by his daughter and grandson.
Craddock, on the other hand, left school before officially graduating in 1953. He had attended Science Hill High School in Tennessee.
He got his GED upon his return, but never had a chance to walk in a graduation. Then, and a few weeks ago, he finally got his chance, joining the 2019 class at Tennessee’s Volunteer High School.
“I’m tickled pink that I went through this to get this,” he told news channel WJHL.
“Seeing all these people and they have made me feel good.”
And each veteran had a special message for not only their own graduating classes from over a half-century ago, but also for the class of 2019.
“Always do the best you can plus 10 percent,” said Perricone. “That extra 10 percent will usually help you get over whatever you’re trying to do.”
Craddock ‘s advice:
“I would tell that class to study hard and be good. Learn all they can and get the best education they can get.”
He also added a note about the sacrifice of veterans everywhere:
“Remember, we that serve the military served it for everybody,” he said. “Some made the complete sacrifice.”
And there are heartwarming stories such as this all around the country.
According to Huff Post, Pittsburgh’s WTAE reported that earlier this month, another World War II veteran named Pete Sabedra, 92, received a diploma alongside his grandson at Pennsylvania’s Derry Area High School.
This took place almost 80 years after he would have graduated.
It’s wonderful to see high schools stepping up to honor veterans and those veterans honoring education by showing graduating seniors just how important it is to get their degrees.
You can scroll down to see both Craddock’s and Perricone’s stories below.
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