WWII Vet Kicks Off Memorial Day Weekend By Finally Earning His HS Diploma

Virginia Kruta Associate Editor
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World War II veteran Talma Sadler, 91, finally received his high school diploma this week — 70 years after he dropped out of school to serve in the United States military.

“It’s a big thrill, to get that diploma,” Sadler said.

Sadler, who achieved the rank of Staff Sergeant in the Army, lied to the draft board about his age (he was just 16 when he left school). He explained, “I had to have a job and you had to be 18 to register for the draft, so I told them I was 18 and then they drafted me.”

Believing that he was 18, Sadler said the Army drafted him and sent him to serve in the Pacific. “It’s war time,” he said. “It’s just like Uncle Sam says I want you.” He was still there when Japan surrendered in 1945. (RELATED: University Of Toledo Honors WWII Veteran With Rightly Earned Degree In Business And Advertising)

Sadler’s home state of Oklahoma offers a delayed graduation program to veterans who, like him, left school early in order to serve in the military. Through that program, Sadler received his diploma on Thursday. It was sent to his current hometown of Durant from Magnum High School (where he would have graduated all those years ago) and was backdated to May 17, 1945.

Three of the students who shared the stage with Sadler said that they plan to join the military. One, Cade Ogden, is already on his way to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis — and he was blown away by Sadler’s story. “For him to go lie about his age like that, just to go serve his country, that’s crazy right there,” Ogden remarked. “It’s great what he did and I want to go serve my country.”

Sadler said he’s now considering going to college. “If you want to go on to college, you got to have a diploma. It’s a big world out there, get your share.”