This One’s for Bob: The Sequel

IMG_7915Our friend, Bob, graduated from high school on Friday, June 27, 2014. That might not seem like such a big deal except, you see, Bob is 88 years old.

On the day he should’ve graduated, 70 years ago, he was otherwise engaged, fighting on behalf of America and her Allies in World War II.

Some of you will remember Bob from a couple of months ago, when he went on an Honor Flight to Washington, DC. Having read that story, you might’ve thought it would be impossible to top that day in May!

But, thanks to a man named Richard, Bob has experienced another day filled with honor and joy! Richard is the sheriff of an upstate New York county and may go down in history as the most thoughtful guy ever.

IMG_7912He is the person who accompanied Bob as his guardian on the Honor Flight and, on that day, he heard Bob mention that he had never graduated from high school because he had enlisted in the Navy.

Richard was familiar with a program called “Operation Recognition,” which authorizes school districts to grant a high school diploma to any honorably discharged veteran who served in the United States military during World War II, Korean Conflict or Vietnam War.

Richard contacted our school district and they enthusiastically agreed that Bob should graduate. They took care of everything and made Bob feel like the hero in his own fairy tale.

The highlights:

A solo walk down the aisle, leading in all graduates of the class of 2014.

IMG_7918 Not one, not two, but three standing ovations, as members of the audience spontaneously and repeatedly leapt to their feet to honor him.

IMG_7936 A gift from the class of 2014—a $500 donation, in Bob’s name, to the Honor Flight organization.

IMG_7948The presentation of the flag that flew over the U.S. Pentagon on the day of his Honor Flight trip.

IMG_7969 A medal representing his Navy occupation of aviation boatswain’s mate.

IMG_7966And, of course, his diploma.

The biggest highlight for those of us who accompanied Bob on his big day? His unalloyed pleasure at being recognized so generously and fully.

IMG_7916As we had dinner after the ceremony, we joked that this just proved that, if a person waits long enough, he can graduate without taking a test.

But, of course, we all know there was a test. A big test. A test that far exceeded any we ever face, those of us who stay home in our own country, safe and secure, and who finish high school on schedule.

It was a test that no amount of studying could’ve prepared those boys for, the ones who, like Bob, left school to defend their country in World War II.

And we are where we are today because they, as a fighting force, aced their exam. The boys who left school were the men who came home or, in so many cases, died even as they passed their test.

On Friday night, it was as if we honored them all, all those boys who sacrificed so much. It was the very least we could do, after all they did for us.

44 thoughts on “This One’s for Bob: The Sequel

  1. Amazing story…how fortuitous that Richard heard Bob’s comment, was familiar with the progrsm and contacted the school district on Bob’s behalf.

  2. In a world of media coverage that tends to the negative, it’s stories like this one that brings tears of encouragement to us all with hearts full of gratitude for all that has been done so that we might enjoy all that our wonderful country offers!! This post is a blessing for us all!!!! Hugs…………………….

    • Yes! One of my favorite moments was when a representative of the senior class told Bob how happy he and his fellow students were to be able to share Bob’s big day!

  3. How wonderful and interesting. We have honor flights here but I haven’t heard of any honor graduations. What a great idea and honor too.

    • I hadn’t heard of the program either but, from what I can tell, it’s available in every state. It was the first degree of this type that the school had conferred and they seemed thrilled about it!

    • There were lots of people struggling not to cry, and some just giving in, at the ceremony. Bob, himself, was pretty overcome with emotion, too. It was a great evening!

    • I just read your post about staying in Northern Cal and was so frustrated because I couldn’t find a way to comment on it! So I came here to say good for you, for making the hard decision! Turning back must’ve been so difficult and you must be so relieved that you did!

      • I was afraid to allow comments, but your kindness made me change my mind. Thank you for your support. You reminded me that Life isn’t just short, Life is Good! Thank you again!

  4. Amazing story, Bob looks so happy! And two thumbs up for Richard for making this possible. Such an important thing to keep remembering what happened and to honour these men.

    • Yes, thumbs up to Richard! This truly wouldn’t have happened without him. And he did it all after knowing Bob very briefly–the world could use more guys like Richard!

  5. What a privilege to be able to follow Bob’s journey. This is such a feel good tale and it does my heart good to know how much effort went into making him feel so special. So few people today understand sacrifice. It is such a good thing that your country honours its heros and helps the younger generations to be more aware of the price that people like Bob made to help them have the freedom they have today.

    • I hadn’t known much about these programs for veterans until Bob started benefiting from them–and to think how many men are experiencing the joy that he has felt really is heart-warming! I am very ambivalent about war but I am not ambivalent about honoring people who did what they felt was right and necessary!

  6. So happy to see Bob, still so handsome, with those blue eyes!

    What another great moment! And such an incredible event for all in attendance. It’s refreshing to know you can graduate at any age and in this case such a well deserving gentleman. And how wonderful of Richard to make this possible.

    Thanks for sharing this story Kerry. It is so refreshing!

    • It was an amazing evening all around! And, yes, thank goodness for Richard–without him setting things into motion, it wouldn’t have happened. I had worried that the other attendees at the graduation wouldn’t really get it, why this big deal was being made, but I couldn’t’ve been more wrong!

  7. Oh Kerry, this story and the beautiful photos brought tears to my eyes. My entire family in The Netherlands was saved by American and Canadian soldiers. After the War, my parents were young people who had neither been able to finish their education because of it and with the help of the Marshal Plan, they were able to start their own business and become successful in life and provide for the next generation. We can not honor our veterans enough in any kind of way at any time in life!! Thank you for sharing!

    • World War II has so many dramatic stories and I know very few of them. So much went on in the Netherlands, I guess, and we never hear about it, really. When I visited, we went to Westerbork, which was a Nazi transit camp, and saw the memorials, and it was beautiful and awful. Your family’s story seems to have had a fine ending–knowing about them and about guys like Bob puts human faces on all the drama and sacrifice.

  8. What a moving and well written story. I wish Bob the best of times and good luck in his future endeavours. Hearty congratulations to him!

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