It's never too late to graduate.
That's the lesson World War II veteran Milton Mockerman shared with the Kalkaska High School class of 2017 with whom he graduated on Saturday.
Mockerman, 89, received an honorary diploma from the school and participated in its graduation ceremony in Kalkaska, Michigan, fulfilling his lifelong dream of earning a high school degree -- 71 years later than expected.
"We got a phone call from Milton Mockerman wondering if there were any classes he could take to finish his graduation," Kalkaska High School Principal John Sattler told CNN.
Sattler soon learned that Mockerman had forged his birth certificate and left high school early to join the Navy during World War II. After serving in the Navy for two and a half years, Mockerman returned home to Michigan and needed to find work. He found a few odd jobs before going to work on the railroad for 31 years.
After hearing Mockerman's story, Sattler and his secretary wanted to help the military vet accomplish his goal. They went to the board of education to ask if they could award him an honorary diploma, and the board voted unanimously to do so.
"Because of his years of service in the military, we ... gave him an honorary diploma," Sattler said.
Before graduating with the senior class, Mockerman spoke to a few of the high school history classes about his experiences in the war.
At the graduation ceremony, Mockerman received his honorary degree and said a few words to the graduating seniors.
"I didn't know what to say, so I just kind of told them, 'Well, you've proved to me today that this high school graduating class must be smarter than I am,'" Mockerman told CNN. "Because what they took four years to do, it took me 71 years to come to that conclusion."
Mark Mockerman, Milton's son, attended the graduation ceremony.
"It was one of the greatest things I've seen," Mark Mockerman told CNN. "My dad hasn't had a lot of notoriety, and he deserves it, because he's been the kind of dad that everyone should have had. He's always there for me."
First off, congratulations to Milton Mockermann. Incredibly cool story to see an 89 year old World War II vet get to finally fulfill one of his life long dreams. This dude left school to join the Navy then worked on the railroad for 31 years when he got back. That's one tough SOB. Milton would probably kick my ass today at 89 years old.
Stories from World War II vets like this always blow my mind. It was just completely different world back then. Levels of Patriotism that you can't even imagine. You were a pussy in their eyes if you didn't go to war. Even Major Leaguers left to serve. They're called the Greatest Generation for a reason. They were heroes. There will never be another like them. Dudes were fucking forging their birth certificates to go serve their country before turning 18. They just don't make people like Milton Mockerman anymore. On my 18th birthday I went to the Mews with my mom for dinner and then went to a high school basketball game, this dude had already been serving in the U.S. Navy for months. I'm 25 and I'm still basically a kid. These dudes were killing Nazis at the same age we were getting our learners permits.
Just think about that for a second, this guy lied about his age to go serve and protect his country. I'm sure there's handfuls of people around now who would do that, but stories like Milton's are not that uncommon during that time period. There's stories of kids as young as 14 lying about their age to serve their country. This triggered snowflake fidget spinner generation would never in a million years consider dropping out of their montessori schools to serve. Wouldn't happen. Parents wouldn't allow it either. My mom gets worried if I drive after taking a nap. These dude's parents gave them the okay to leave for war. Even as a history guy I can't fathom that this how the world used to work.
Again, congratulations to Milton Mockermann for getting to fulfill a livelong dream, he sure as hell deserved to do it.