88-year-old Korean War veteran receives high school diploma

Published: May. 28, 2022 at 6:54 PM CDT
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OSSEO, Wis. (WEAU) - Over 70 years ago, one Western Wisconsin man enlisted in the military without attending high school. More than half a century later, he finally became a graduate.

“It was something that I really, not knowing I was going to get,” Cecil Berlin said.

Berlin never thought he would receive a high school diploma

On Saturday, the 88-year-old Korean War veteran took his place among Osseo-Fairchild’s graduating class of 2022.

“It came about in a surprise through the family getting a hold of the right people and everything that came that day for what it is today,” Berlin said. “I really appreciate what they did because it’s really an honor to have a high school diploma.”

Berlin stopped going to school after 8th grade.

“But as it was, I stayed on the family farm, and then at age 17, I joined the Navy,” Berlin said.

With the help of a state and federal program that awards vets their high school diploma if they meet the criteria, Berlin’s family was able to make it happen.

Osseo-Fairchild school district board member Gerald Bodway says it’s nice to be able to honor vets like Berlin.

“In some cases, that’s an honorary diploma, and other cases where the board approves it, it’s an actual diploma and that’s what we gave to Cecil,” Bodway said.

To add to the experience, Berlin also has two grandsons who graduated high school this year.

“This morning, I was getting a card ready for the one that just graduated Saturday night and wrote it took me a little longer to get my diploma,” Berlin laughed.

Regrets are something Berlin says he doesn’t have.

“My intention was I’m going to go on the Navy because I had an uncle that was in the Navy and World War II and I thought he was the greatest guy in the world so I guess I was following his footsteps,” Berlin said.

He adds it’s a great feeling to finally hold his high school diploma in his hands.

“Probably at my age of 88, it will probably be a showpiece instead of something I’ll have to have to get a job,” Berlin chuckled.

Berlin says the opportunity to receive his high school diploma after all this time will be unforgettable. He also says he’s grateful to have had his family there to support and cheer him on.

To learn about the program to help veterans get their high school diplomas, click here.

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