LEHIGHTON, Pa. -- One of the most legendary tank gunners of World War II just received his high school diploma--76 years after he left school.
Clarence Smoyer from Lehighton was drafted into the Army at 19 years old and ended up fighting in some of the most crucial battles in Germany.
Smoyer left high school in his sophomore year because he needed to start making some money to help his family. Soon thereafter, he was drafted into the Army where he saw two years in combat as a tank gunner.
Smoyer came back to the Lehighton Area School District Monday night as a recognized war hero and left as an honorary graduate.
One step at a time, 95-year-old Clarence Smoyer made his way into the Lehighton Area School District with his daughter by his side. Smoyer was given an honorary diploma and a standing ovation from the crowd.
"Somebody had to do it. Somebody had to, so I feel very fortunate that I survived," Smoyer said.
Smoyer went on to play a pivotal role in World War II, including a tank duel in the German city of Cologne. An Army cameraman caught the exchange.
Smoyer's time in Germany sticks with him to this day.
"The earth was just shaking. Wave after wave came over. Some of them got hit. Some of them parachuted, and some of them got hit and burst into flames," Smoyer recalled.
Smoyer lost a lot of friends in the war and sacrificed so much for his country.
The school district says giving Smoyer this honorary diploma was the right thing to do, even 76 years later.
"I mean, it is really nice to have, but I don't think he'll be doing any job interviews. It's just something to cherish," said Cindy Buervenich, Smoyer's daughter.
"I'm proud! I'm proud! A long time coming, but actually not that long ago," Smoyer added.
Smoyer marks another milestone in his life on Tuesday. He is turning 96.