Update on Friday, May 19, 2017: An 83-year-old Korean War veteran got his diploma on Friday morning after leaving high school to join the Navy six decades ago.
Martin Sullivan, 83, graduated from Newsome High School at the Hillsborough County Fairgrounds this morning.
A small celebration was planned for after the graduation ceremony at the Veteran's Memorial Park with family and friends.
Original Story on Wednesday, May 10, 2017: Years ago, it wasn't unusual for a young man or woman to leave high school and sign up for the military without graduating.
For some, it's okay not having a diploma, but for others it's something they realize they really want as time marches on.
An 83-year-old Korean War Veteran is not only getting his diploma, but all the pomp and circumstance of an actual graduation.
Nearly 66 years ago, a 17-year-old from East Boston decided serving his country was more important than finishing high school.
"In order to get into the service when you're under 18, one of your parents had to sign permission for you to get in. So, my grandmother who raised me, she wouldn't sign it, but my grandfather would. He signed it."
Marty Sullivan joined the Navy, and in 1952 was sent to the Korean War on the USS Strong as a fire control technician. He has no regrets about his choice, saying he grew up when he entered the service. "You go in a tough guy, you find out there's somebody in there tougher than you. You find that out real quick."
About a year ago Sullivan realized there was something missing, his diploma.
With the help of a Veterans Service Officer, he finally got it.
"It's complete now," Sullivan said. "Say down the line, if I'm sitting in a bar and somebody said 'hey, you ever graduate?' Yeah!"
At the age of 83, Sullivan says it's never too late.
"Anyone who has a chance to get a diploma. Don't be scared," Sullivan said. "Veterans are scared to sign anything."
Next week, Sullivan will graduate with about 600 seniors from Newsome High School in Hillsborough County. Sullivan will also get to take part in senior breakfast the day before, where students get letters from family and friends.
All veterans in Florida who did not graduate are eligible to get their diplomas, but there are some requirements. Click here for more information and an application form.
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