SHAMOKIN -- A World War II veteran received something he has wanted for more than seven decades: his high school diploma.
Joseph Shepos would have graduated from Shamokin Area High School in 1943, but instead, chose to serve overseas.
To thunderous applause, Joseph Shepos was wheeled onto the stage at Shamokin Area High School Wednesday evening to get the diploma he would have received 71 years ago.
As a member of the graduating class in 1943, the then 17-year-old Shepos left Shamokin High to fight in World War II.
“One day, something told me to go and sign up and I went down, and they used to have pictures around years ago that said, ‘We need you’ with somebody pointing. That’s what made me join the Navy,” said Shepos.
The now 88-year-old Shepos returned from war in 1945, got a job and raised a family.
But the diploma was something he always wanted, so his family did some digging to make this possible, applying for the honorary diploma through a program with the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veteran Affairs called “Operation Recognition."
“We all worked on it and Shamokin voted that he could get it, and it's turned into a bigger day than we ever expected,” said daughter Ann Shepos. “You can't imagine how proud. This is a true celebration.”
Shepos got his diploma during this year's graduating class's awards ceremony to a standing ovation.
It was presented to him by his grand-niece, who is graduating from Shamokin this Friday.
“It's special that we're both getting it at the same time. I'm happy that he gets to come back and get that recognition,” said niece Helana Supsic.
Roughly 30 members of Shepos' family from near and far were at the high school to watch him receive this diploma.
And Shepos and his wife, Ann, will celebrate their 70 wedding anniversary later this month.