About 150 friends and family members of U.S. veterans gathered at Jackson High School Tuesday night for a special graduation ceremony.
Five veterans received their honorary high school diplomas as part of Operation Recognition, a program initiated by Gov. Bob Holden to recognize veterans who dropped out of high school to serve in the armed forces during wartime. Two others, while getting diplomas, were unable to attend the ceremony.
After nearly 60 years of waiting and wishing, Ules Woods, 76, of Burfordville, Mo., finally got his diploma.
As he walked across the stage, Woods turned to the audience, thrust his diploma in the air and grinned. He would have graduated in 1943 but chose instead to serve in the U.S. Navy during World War II.
"It's such an honor," Woods said. "I never thought this day would come. I gave up hoping for it years ago."
Four generations of Woods' family were on hand to celebrate with him.
"We're so proud of him," said eldest son Mike Woods with a tear in his eye. "He's been there for all of us, and now he's had his day. He's my hero."
Jackie Morton, Wilbert Welker, Martin Roberts and Dale Wolfenkoehler also received their diplomas Tuesday.
Clarence Kieninger and Forrest Hueter were recognized during the ceremony, though they were unable to attend because of illnesses in their families.
Since the program's inception in September, 545 veterans throughout the state have received their diplomas.
335-6611, extension 128