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Blount County veterans receive honorary high school diplomas

"I appreciate this diploma," said 95-year-old WWII Army veteran James Estes. "I didn't think I'd ever get one to tell you the truth."

After leaving school early to serve our country overseas, three local veterans now have their high school diplomas.

Their families packed the room in the Blount County Courthouse Monday morning to watch their dads and grandpas finally "graduate" high school.

That's something the men didn't think they'd ever do.

"I appreciate this diploma," said 95-year-old WWII Army veteran James Estes. "I didn't think I'd ever get one to tell you the truth."

It''s not something you see happen anymore; teenagers leaving home while still in high school to fight overseas.

"They would have drafted me, too, if I hadn't have volunteered," said Estes.

That was the reality for Estes and his fellow veterans Sterling Hearon, 95, and Jack McCroskey, 83.

Hearon served in the Navy during WWII, and McCroskey served in the Air Force in the Korean War.

They have a lot of memories from their teen years, but not of prom and football games.

"Word passed on the phone, torpedo astern, and I stood and watched it go out of sight under the ship," said Hearon.

"I landed D-Day at Utah Beach," said Estes.

Decades later, they hold pieces of paper they never thought they'd have: their honorary high school diplomas.

"I was at Midway Island the night I should have got it, but I didn't get it," said Hearon.

Blount County Veteran Services helped these local veterans mark the milestone they missed.

"Education is very important to me, it took a long time to get this," said Hearon.

One last award to display with their years of memories in Tennessee and abroad.

"I'm happy," said Hearon.

Blount County Veteran Services has awarded 15 honorary diplomas to local veterans since 2014.

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