For WWII vet, the waits over; Duty kept him from finishing high school, but now its his

Fairfield Daily Republic ©

Some things are worth the wait.

For 86-year-old Louis H. Webb, sitting beside the blue cap and gown hell wear in less than a week, the topic of his graduation provokes a slight response from his wife of 60 years, Lois.

'Its filling a void for him,' she said with a smile. Leaning against a wall, she looks over at her husband. Her eyes brighten through a pair of glasses. 'I think its great he decided to do this.'

It would have been 68 years ago that Webb walked down the halls of Mountainview High School in Seminole, Okla., to attend his graduation. He described the school as a one-story building spread out on a large acreage that catered to grades 1-12.

But he didnt. He never attended his graduation, never became a part of the memories.

Instead, he dropped out of school before his junior year and joined the Civilian Conservation Corps. After a year of service, Webb became a part of the National Guard. The following year, and without hesitation, he enlisted for World War II.

'Well, I didnt tell the truth when I enlisted in the Army. I said I was born in 1919 when I was born in 1921,' he confessed with some embarrassment.

He doesnt remember why he made those choices during his teen years, only saying that people make stupid decisions in high school.

'Dont they?' he asked.

Only a brick wall remains of the school, which he last visited 20 years ago for a high school reunion. And even the reunions, Webb added, are beginning to fade.

'Everyone is dying, but I still send my money every year,' he said.

Sixty-eight years later, after raising a family, retiring as an Air Force chief master sergeant and working as an assistant vice president at a local bank, Webb will finally put closure to the hollow memory of 1939.

Although he received his GED in 1952 while serving in the Air Force and took several college classes, Webb will walk in a high school graduation ceremony with 140 students at the Jan Hannigan Adult Education Center on Thursday as an honorary member of the class of 2007. The ceremony is only open to families of students.

For Webb, the thought of a ceremony causes an air of uneasiness.

'I feel like I goofed up not getting it before,' he said. 'This is something I didnt do before that I now have a chance to do. Its just something I can say I did it.'

Last month, the Solano County Office of Education held Operation Recognition, a nationwide program from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that presents honorary diplomas to World War II, Korean and Vietnam war veterans who dropped out of school or were drafted.

'When I heard about Operation Recognition, it seemed like such a way we can give back to those veterans to show we havent forgotten, a gesture on our part on how much they are appreciated,' said Nola Lionberger, public information officer for the Solano County Office of Education.

This is the first year the county is recognizing veterans. On May 23, 20 veterans in Solano County received their diplomas.

'You should have seen the looks on their faces,' Lionberger said. 'They were delighted and honored. They said they felt like this was unfinished business, something theyve been wanting to do.'

Webb knows that feeling. He missed the May ceremony because he was in Utah with his family. Soon after his return, he contacted the adult school and asked if he could take part in Thursdays ceremony.

'We were very excited to have Webb included in the graduation,' said Vickie Good, the adult school principal. 'Any time an adult gets their high school diploma shows worthiness. And for someone who comes back, this makes them feel complete. Its important for people to see they can do that.'

Webb hopes to start a chain reaction with his graduation Thursday and prompt more veterans to receive their diplomas.

'There are people who got pulled out of school, pushed back in and then pulled back out. They never finished their high school education,' he said. 'I missed out on that and I want to pick this up. Maybe by me doing this, someone else will do it, too.'