A 98-year-old World War II veteran was awarded his high school diploma, 78 years after he was sent to basic training to fight the Nazis during his graduating year.

Veteran Ernie Reda attended Stadium High School, located in Commencement Bay in Tacoma, Washington, in the early 1940s. He should've graduated in 1943, but the world had other plans for him. Instead, he served for the United States to fight in the Battle of the Bulge and the invasion of Normandy as an Army sharpshooter.


Ernie's granddaughter, Heather Anderson, had planned for two years a way for her grandfather to get recognition. She reached out to the principal of Stadium High School in early December, KING5 reports.

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Anderson asked if the school would be interested in "Operation Recognition," a Veteran's Affairs program to recognize the veterans who were drafted and could not finish high school.

“Grandpa just survived COVID-19 about five weeks ago, so I’ve been rushing to make this special day happen,” Anderson said.

"It seemed like the most honorable thing to do," school principal Shannon Marshall said.

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The ceremony was held on Monday in the school's auditorium.

“God bless everybody," Reda said. "It’s the best Christmas I’ve ever had. It’s about time, you know. Seventy-eight years is a long time."