NORTH CREEK, N.Y. — Graduation is a special day for most people, but a 67-year-old New York man is especially happy to get his diploma. Russell Leigh dropped out of high school In 1961 at age 16 to serve in the Navy as a nuclear power electrician aboard submarines.
Now, 51 years later he can get his diploma through a program called operation recognition.
“A lot of waiting. A lot of years of waiting,” Leigh said.
The state program lets World War II, Korean and Vietnam War Veterans who didn’t finish high school, receive a diploma, as long as they have a high school equivalency.
“I just found out about it,” he said. “I got the school newsletter the beginning of June, second or third, I read it on Saturday and on Monday I came up to see Mr. Markwica about doing it.”
Graduation was also special for Leigh because he shared the moment with his grandson.
“It’s an opportunity that not many people get,” said Leigh’s grandson, Mike Allen. “And it’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime things that you’ll never really understand until after the fact. I think it’ll start to sink in a little later on.”