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KALKASKA, Michigan-- A dream came true this Memorial Day weekend for a World War II veteran in Michigan.
89-year-old Milton Mockerman received his high school diploma, more than 75 years after starting high school.
"I don't know how you'd put it in words but it does mean a lot to me," Mockerman said before Sunday's ceremony, struggling to hold back tears.
Mockerman changed his birth certificate back in 1944 so he could join the Navy and fight in World War II.
"Everybody my age was engulfed in a war," he recalls. "It was a war to survive and everybody that could was serving." But that choice cost him his high school diploma.
"We created so much of a commotion that they decided they had to do something with us so they said well we're figure this out and have a special ceremony for you," Mockerman remembers of the time he was back in the U.S. after the war. But then, his high school, and all the records inside, went up in flames.
So he moved to Muskegon, Michigan, starting a career in the railroad business and a family, too.
More than 70 years later, something was still missing. That's when he contacted Kalkaska High School again.
The principal was personally moved by his story. Principal Mary Deb Rabourn says, "Both my grandfathers fought in World War II, and they're both gone and have been gone for a while. So it was very emotional for me as well." Principal Rabourn says she was willing to do whatever it took to get Mockerman his diploma.
She did, and Mockerman proudly walked across the graduation stage May 28, 2017, a monumental day for more than just Mockerman.
His grandkids came in to see the ceremony from across the country. "We're all extremely proud of him," grandson Aaron says. "I mean, a lot of people didn't know about this until just a few years ago, and now he's finishing it. I mean, we drove up from Indiana."
It was the principal who had the last word at the ceremony. "This has meant so much to me to be part of I am so pleased that the school was able to do this for him and we've gotten so much out of it."