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World War II vets awarded diplomas

Published Sep. 10, 2005

Nearly 90 World War II veterans who spent some of their high school years fighting for America finally have diplomas.

Their families cheered and took photos of the graduates, wearing blue graduation caps with red, white and blue tassels as the veterans received their diplomas Saturday at Bartow High School.

Some needed a cane or walker and one rode a motorized vehicle.

The state presented these men of the "Greatest Generation" with the diplomas they never received because they sacrificed their teen years to fight in World War II.

"We are better because of the sacrifices you made," said U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Bartow. "Thank you for what you do, what you have done and what you will do."

Many of Saturday's graduating class attended school and had taken classes after the war ended 56 years ago. Some even went on to work in professions that now require four-year college degrees. But they hadn't received their diplomas or any equivalents.

Marilee Conroy and her brother, Jerry Beebe, traveled from Ann Arbor, Mich., to see the graduation of their father, Ralph L. Beebe of Lakeland.

"I'm just so proud," Conroy said. "I never knew. I took it for granted that he had his diploma."