Veteran denied diploma 61 years ago, receives it for 79th birthday

Jerry Miller, 79, received his high school diploma this year after 61 years. (Courtesy: Toni Moon)

HUDSON, Ind. (WANE) – Jerry Miller was set to graduate Central High School in Fort Wayne as part of the class of 1956. Before that could happen, Miller enlisted in the Navy and went to help with the clean up from the Korean War. When he returned he wasn’t given the diploma he earned.  Now, that’s all changed.

“I said ‘how would I got getting a replacement diploma for 1956’,” Miller’s daughter, Toni Moon, said.

Miller thought it was a joke at first when he saw a Central High School diploma with his name on it. He found out the joke was the work of a determined daughter, and it really wasn’t a joke at all. Mon got him his certified high school diploma 61 years later.

The story starts back in 1956 with a sacrifice.

“A few of us at school left to go to Korea,” Miller said. “I guess we never thought about our education. The future.”

When he returned on leave a year later he got his GED, then went to see his principal for his diploma.

“He said I’m sick of you kids quitting school and expecting a diploma for nothing and he threw it away,” Miller said.

Miller went on to serve in the Navy for two more years then held down a successful career until retirement. He did it all without his diploma. But decades later he and his daughter were talking.

“He said one of his biggest regrets was never getting his high school diploma,” Moon said.

So, his daughter got to work. She got his transcript from Fort Wayne Community Schools where Central High School was a part of before it closed. Then she got a certified diploma just in time to give it to him for his 79th birthday.

“I was glad to get it,” Miller said. “I’m glad my daughter went through all the trouble to get it.”

As the years go on, Miller still thinks back on his decision to quit school for the military. He said he’s glad he served, but regrets quitting school. He has a message for those thinking of doing the same.

“If anybody is thinking of quitting school, it’s not the way to go,” Miller said.

It wasn’t just Miller’s daughter touched by his story. Jostens, the company which made the diploma, waived the fee. The representative told Moon they’re just grateful to finally make the diploma Miller deserved.