Veteran to receive diploma 55 years after leaving school - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Veteran to receive diploma 55 years after leaving school

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Tommy Battles left school 55 years ago and went into the service to help support his parents. Tommy Battles left school 55 years ago and went into the service to help support his parents.
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GUNTERSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -

When the senior class at Guntersville High School walks the stage next month for graduation, a special graduate will join them: a veteran who quit school to serve his country.

This high school senior is also a senior in another sense of the word. At 73, he is set to receive a diploma by the state because of his service.

"This has really gotten bigger than I thought it was going to be," said Tommy Battles. "I thought I was just going to get a diploma."

55 years late, but some say better late than never. Battles quit school to help his parents out financially.

"I couldn't find a job so the next best thing I could do was go in the service and send them money home each month," he said.

Battles served on a special detail at John F. Kennedy's inauguration. After getting out, and in the years that passed, Battles found himself out of a job. Getting more work wasn't easy.

"Everybody I would call would say you have to have a high school education," he explained.

His next stop was the Career Center in Fort Payne, where he discovered he was eligible for a diploma due to his service under the state's program, Operation Recognition. He contacted Guntersville High School and requested they send him one.

The school said yes – if he would walk with the rest of the class.

"For me, it will be a big honor because I take much pride in those who serve our country and I have the utmost respect for them," said SGA president Jaqueline Keck.

After 55 years, it's exciting for Tommy as well.

"It's just something that I have never had. All my kids got a diploma," he said.

Battles will walk across the stage with the rest of his classmates May 22.

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