Vietnam Veteran Gets Diploma 50 Years After Leaving HS to Enlist
George Schaefer proves it’s never too late for redemption. The New Jersey native was a senior in high school in 1969 when he dropped out to join the Army and serve in the Vietnam War.
“I just felt obligated to serve my country,” Schaefer told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I always wanted to be a soldier.”
As the third of 10 children, Schaefer already saw his brother, Mark, join the Marines earlier that same year. Schaefer wanted to drop out and enlist immediately, but his parents resisted so that he could finish his education.
They eventually relented, and Schaefer immediately volunteered to serve for a nation divided over the Vietnam War.
Schaefer was part of the 25th Infantry Division of ground troops which served on very difficult assignments. He lived in bunkers and took part in intense warfare. Once he held an 18-year-old soldier who died in his arms. Almost 3 million Americans served in the Vietnam War; 58,000 of them died.
Schaefer told the Philadelphia Inquirer earned a GED while in the Army and had no regrets about leaving school, but he always had a desire to get his diploma.
His wife of 47 years, Marianne, urged him to write his old school, Overbrook High School in Pine Hill, New Jersey, and request his diploma – exactly 50 years later.
Schaefer addressed his fellow 170 graduates by sharing his story and thanking them for allowing him to take part in commencement. It’s the first time the school has awarded a diploma under such circumstances, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“This is fulfillment. This completes a part of my life that I didn’t have,” Schaefer said. “You will never know how proud I am to be part of the Class of 2019.”