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.