An 88-year-old Korean War Veteran from Wisconsin smiled ear to ear in his cap and gown as he walked the stage during the 2022 Osseo-Fairchild High School graduation ceremony.
Navy veteran Cecil Berlin never had the chance to attend high school in his youth, let alone graduate, WEAU reported. The 88-year-old completed eighth grade but spent the next few years on his family’s farm.
“Back then, to have a diploma really wasn’t a big deal, but I never had a problem with what I had learned by not going to school,” Berlin, who hails from Washington, WI, told WCQO. “But I realized an education is a great deal.”
Two years later, at 17 years old, Berlin enlisted in the Navy to serve his country during the Korean War.
“I always wanted to go into the Navy because I had an uncle who was in World War II and I thought that was great,” Berlin said while speaking with WCQO. “So in 1951, my mother and dad signed a paper that said I can enlist in the Navy at 17 years old.”
Berlin racked up a total of eight years in the Navy, three of which were active duty, stationed on a ship, and five years in the reserves. Once his time in the Navy reached an end, Berlin spent the next forty years working for Eau Claire County Highway Department and PDM Bridge.
“I never regretted going into the service and doing what I did at 17 years old,” Berlin told the Leader-Telegram. “If they asked me to go back in — and my family would let me — I’d probably go.”
More than six decades removed from his service days, Berlin received his honorary diploma during a surprise April ceremony in Altoona, according to the outlet. He got the authentic feel of graduating with classmates on Saturday when he walked the stage with the 2022 graduating class of Osse-Fairchild High School.
“It came about in a surprise through the family getting a hold of the right people and everything that came that day for what it is today,” Berlin said. “I really appreciate what they did because it’s really an honor to have a high school diploma.”
Berlin received his degree thanks to a state statute that allows for school boards to grant diplomas to veterans, according to WQOW and the Leader-Telegram.
“In some cases, that’s an honorary diploma, and other cases where the board approves it, it’s an actual diploma and that’s what we gave to Cecil,” Osseo-Fairchild School Board member Gerald Bodway told WEAU.
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