PINE HILL, N.J. - The Class of 2019 has one very special member. Of course, all graduates are special. But, at one South Jersey high school, there really is someone extra special getting his diploma. He just took some extra time to do it.
An emotional day long overdue. More than 50 years after he joined the army and left high school to serve two tours in Vietnam, Monday evening Overbrook High School in Pine Hill presented Retired Army Sergeant George Schaefer a medal and his high school diploma.
“We made it," screamed George from the stage. George was the special guest at the school's 2019 graduation after missing his own graduation in 1969.
A Vietnam veteran receives his high school diploma 50 years after missing his graduation.
His wife and sisters were moved to tears.
"I cannot find the words to express my feelings towards all of you to be the first Vietnam Veteran to be welcomed home by everyone here tonight. It is indeed and honor and privilege I will never forget," said George.
FOX 29’s Shawnette Wilson surprised him after the ceremony.
"Congratulations dear,” Wilson commented, handing him a balloon.
“Thank you so much,” George replied.
“You're so welcome. I'm glad no one else got you a balloon. I didn't know what else I was going to give you," Wilson said.
"What a great feeling it is. After 50 years to receive my high school diploma," George said.
"I just can't tell you how very proud I am of him and how much I knew this was so important to him," said wife Marianne.
Wilson asked George about the part of the ceremony where he stood at the head of the receiving line with school officials as each student received their diploma. He shook every hand.
"I told them all thank you so much for letting me be part of your class. It's an honor to be part of your class," he said.
And, George went to explain he was thinking of retiring.He said he would be the quickest to retire after graduation.