DURANT, Okla. – A 91-year-old World War Two veteran walked across the stage tonight – graduating from high school about 70 years after his classmates.
Talma Sadler, 91, dropped out of school as a teenager to join the army and fight in World War Two.
Seven decades later, Sadler is officially a high school graduate.
High school graduation, a day students dream of as they grow up.
But this graduate has been waiting longer than most.
In fact, he’s been dreaming about this day for the past 73 years.
“It’s a big thrill, to get that diploma,” Sadler said.
Staff Sgt. Talma Sadler felt called to join the military, but he was only 16.
“I had to have a job and you had to registered for the draft, so I told them I was 18 and then they drafted me,” Sadler said.
He served in the Pacific and was there when Japan surrendered in 1945.
“It’s war time; it’s just like Uncle Sam says I want you,” Sadler said.
Getting his diploma was always a dream.
But now, thanks to the state’s veterans high school diploma program, Sadler’s dream came true.
The program allows anyone who left high school prior to graduation to serve in World War II, the Korean War or the Vietnam War, to get their diploma.
Sadler’s school, Mangum High School, sent his diploma, dated May 17, 1945, for him to receive at the Durant High School graduation, where Sadler now lives.
A special moment for all the graduates walking beside him – especially Cade Ogden.
“For him to go lie about his age like that, just to go serve his country, that’s crazy right there,” Ogden said.
Ogden is heading to the Naval Academy in a few weeks.
“It’s great what he did and I want to go serve my country,” Ogden said.
As far as Sadler’s plans now that he has his diploma…
“If you want to go on to college, you got to have a diploma,” Sadler said.
“You going on to college?”
“Probably will,” Sadler said.
But more than anything, he’s an inspiration for his fellow graduates.
“It’s a big world out there, get your share,” Sadler said.