World War II veteran Bob Barger is finally getting his rightly earned associate’s degree from the University of Toledo, Ohio, 68 years since he left school to start his career and a family, The Associated Press reports.
Barger joined the Navy in the early 1940s after seeing an advertisement that read, “Join the navy and get an education” because he wanted that degree.
While in the Navy, Barger “flew seaplanes for scout observation over the Gulf of Mexico and was a flight instructor at a base in Corpus Christi, Texas. He later was stationed in Norman, Oklahoma, after the war and planned on a career in the Navy,” according to the AP.
Barger’s plans to stay in the Navy changed, however, when a bunkhouse exploded and he risked his life to save the “bloodied men” caught in the wreckage.
After that incident, Barger decided to pursue a degree in business and advertising at the University of Toledo in the late 1940s. But after completing three years of classes and earning 83 credits, Barger sought a career opportunity and made the difficult decision to leave school in order to start a job and a family.
Today, Barger’s 83 credits he earned in college are more than the necessary requirements needed for a student to earn an associate’s degree. Barger didn’t know it was possible to get his associate’s degree 68 years after leaving college until he met Haraz Ghanbari, the University of Toledo’s current Director of Military and Veteran Affairs.
Ghanbari is also a Navy Reserve officer who needed Barger’s approval to finalize his promotion to lieutenant five years ago.
Recently, Ghanbari was going through Barger’s school records when he noticed the WWII vet had never actually graduated, despite having earned 83 credits. So, Ghanbari decided to do something the university had never done before and help a 96-year-old graduate.
“It was something I never dreamed of,” Barger said. “I’m going to be proud to hang that diploma on the wall and think about the friends behind it. I found out without friends, this old world wouldn’t be worth living in.”
The dean of the University of Toledo Barbara Kopp Miller was happy to honor the student-veteran. “It’s the right thing to do. He deserved it. He earned it. It’s so cool to honor a member of our greatest generation.”
Barger joked with reporters that now with his degree, he can get “a cushy job where I can play golf.”