A trio of local veteran who served our country in World War II and Korea received honors on Monday. They answered our nation’s call to duty which meant they couldn’t complete their education.

Three war veterans graduated from high school inside the Blount County Courthouse.

“This is the best moment I’ve ever had right here,” said WWII veteran James Estes.

“Education is very important to me. Took a long time to get this, but I made it eventually,” added WWII veteran Sterling Hearon.

Both 95-year-olds waited more than 70 years for this moment and that piece of paper.

“I was at Midway Island the night I should’ve got it,” said Hearon.

“I appreciate this diploma. I didn’t ever think I’d get one to tell you the truth,” said Estes.

Estes is a veteran of the army and was in the 22nd Infantry. He landed D-Day on Utah beach.

“I was in deep water for a long time. I got out in too deep of water and I was floating around in one life jacket and finally got to the bank. I lost all my equipment,” said Estes.

Hearon was drafted his junior year of high school and served in the Navy. 

“We were on watch, me and two other sailors, in a gun tub and word passed on the phone that torpedo astern. We all looked back that way and there it come right straight toward us. It just so happened there were three of us in the gun tub and only two life jackets. But I stood and watched it go out of sight under the ship.”

Receiving their diploma, taking pictures, and getting congratulatory handshakes on Monday was meaningful even so many years later.

“It’s awful good to have it,” said Hearon.

A Korean War veteran named Jack McCroskey, 83, also received his diploma. 

Blount County Veterans Affairs says over the last five years they’ve been able to award 15 veterans with their high school diplomas.

If you have a loved one who was not able to graduate because they enlisted to serve in the military, you can reach out to your local Veterans Affairs office. From there, the Veterans Service officer will collect information and file the right forms for an honorary diploma.