The class of 2015 from Alvin Independent School District, in Manvel, Texas, has a pretty special graduate — 72-year-old war veteran Jimmie Turpin.
Turpin left school in 1961, at the age of 17, when he was just a junior. Turpin then went off to the Pacific and fought during the Vietnam War. But now, 54 years after making the decision to leave school and serve his country, Turpin will finally get his high school diploma.
On Monday night, Turpin was honored in a ceremony, complete with a sabre arch, in which he received a letter man’s jacket — and a standing ovation from those who attended.
“Nobody could script this,” he said. “This is my life. I’m now an official alum.”
His daughter, Angela Turpin, says her dad now jokes about how he can now go find a job with his new credentials. The joke, Angela explains, is that Turpin, at age 72, is retired. All joking aside, however, Turpin is touched by the receiving of his diploma.
“It means the world to him,” Turpin’s daughter says simply.
Turpin will walk across the stage in the official commencement ceremony on June 5th. He feels the date makes his graduation even more special, since he shares the date of his own commencement with his granddaughter, who will walk across her own stage at a nearby Texas high school.
Luckily, Turpin’s graduation ceremony is scheduled for a later time than his granddaughter’s — the family says that the timing works out perfectly and that everyone will be able to make both ceremonies.
Turpin is more than happy to share the stage with the young folks of the class of 2015.
“I’ll probably have to adopt the class of 2015,” he says. “They’re sharing their moment with me, and I’m an old man.”
Turpin is not the first veteran to receive a high school diploma long after dropping out in order to serve in the military. In fact, according to the Huffington Post, many school districts have made it a policy to award diplomas to veterans whose service superseded their high school education. There have been veterans across the country, of all ages, who have received their high school diplomas decades after leaving school. Stanley Snyder, for example, a World War II veteran living in Lancaster, Pennsylvania received his high school diploma in 2012 — a mere 73 years after leaving school.
Sounds like a great policy — and congratulations to Jimmie Turpin on his graduation from high school!
For more on how you can help veterans, click here.
[Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images]