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Nearly 70 years later, veteran gets high school diploma

Posted at 9:26 PM, May 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-16 00:41:11-04

Decades after a war put his education on hold, a San Diego man is finally getting his diploma. It's an honor 85-year-old Richard Real didn't know was possible.

Real enlisted in the National Guard during high school and shortly after was sent to Korea. He was a demolition expert and was later awarded two bronze stars.

"It was terrible, the first time I'd been gone from home so long," remembers Real.

After the war Real didn't go back to school, he built a family.

"He's amazing," said Real's daughter, Anita Real-Castro. "I'm proud of who he is, proud of who he's become."

Real-Castro said she always knew her father didn't get a diploma, and could sense that something was missing.

When she heard about Operation Recognition, she knew she had to make the call. The organization awards diplomas to eligible World War II, Korean War, Vietnam veterans and people who were detained in internment camps during World War II.

"I knew it was important to him," said Real-Castro. "He's seen all his great-grandchildren (and) children graduate and get a diploma."

Real was the eleventh veteran to be honored by the program in San Diego County.

"I've got a lot to be grateful for," said Real. "Grace. That's the key."

His daughter says she's never seen him smile the way he did when he received his diploma.

"I'm very, very proud of my dad," said Real-Castro.

The San Diego County Office of Education says they'd like to see more people take advantage of the program, but unfortunately, the number of eligible applicants is getting smaller by the day.

Loved ones can propose a recipient through the SDCOE website.