91-year-old WWII veteran graduates high school more than 70 years later

DURANT, Okla. — Talma Sadler wanted to graduate high school with his classmates back in the 1940s, but he had something more important to do: help the United States win World War II.

High school graduation is a day students dream of as they grow up, but this graduate has been waiting longer than most. In fact, the 91-year-old WWII veteran’s been dreaming about this day for the past 73 years.

“It’s a big thrill to get that diploma,” Sadler said.

Staff Sgt. Sadler felt called to join the military, but he was only 16.

“And so I told them i was 18, and then they drafted me,” he said.

He served in the Pacific and was there when Japan surrendered in 1945.

“War time, it’s just like Uncle Sam says, ‘I want you.'”

Getting his diploma was always a dream. And now, thanks to Oklahoma’s Veterans High School Diploma program, Sadler’s dream came true. The program allows anyone who left high school prior to graduation to serve in World War II, the Korean War or the Vietnam War to get their diploma.

Sadler’s school, Mangum High, sent his diploma so he could get it at the graduation ceremony. It’s dated May 17, 1945.

It was a special moment for all the graduates walking beside him, especially Cade Ogden.

“For him to go lie about his age like that, just to go serve his country, that’s crazy right there,” Ogden said.

Ogden is heading to the Naval Academy in a few weeks.

“It’s great what he did, and I want to go serve my country,” he said.

As far as Sadler’s plans now that he has his diploma, he said he’s probably going on to college.

But more than anything, he’s an inspiration for his fellow graduates.

“It’s a big world out there. Get your share,” he said.