After a life filled with both tragedies and triumphs, an 86-year-old World War II veteran receives his high school diploma. KCBD's Tiffany Pelt reports.
Jack Fletcher was in his senior year of high school in Spur, Texas, when World War II broke out. Graduation would have to wait -- 70 years, as it turned out.
Fletcher traveled the world after the war and now lives in Australia, but a special ceremony brought him back as an honorary graduate of the Spur High School Class of 2012, NBC station KCBD of Lubbock reported.
"I had to look to make sure they put a certificate in there," he laughed after the graduation ceremony. "I was afraid they were kidding me!"
Born in 1925 in Spur, Fletcher moved with his family to another town. But in 1941, after Fletcher's parents were killed in a car accident, he and his siblings moved back to Spur to live with their grandparents.
But before Fletcher's senior year was over, World War II erupted.
"Oh man, me and my three brothers all volunteered as quickly as we could," Fletcher told KCBD.
"My friend Corbit said I'll go to Europe to win the war, and you go to the Pacific and win it out there, and we'll get back together. God bless him, he was killed in his first mission," Fletcher told KCBD. "We had seven buddies of mine that were killed. I was pulled back to headquarters before they came up the ridge and that's the only reason I'm still here. It bothered me for a long time … I should have been with them, you know."
Fletcher left the military in 1946 and found his way back to Spur.
"When I got off the bus at the end of my lane, there sat David," Fletcher said as he began to cry. "That little dog … my grandmother said he waited at the end of the lane each day when I left."
As quickly as Fletcher returned to Spur, he left once again. He traveled the world working in the agricultural business. Fletcher found himself in Australia and helped to create the Australian Land and Cattle Co.
"We bought 4.3 million acres of country, a ranch about 11 times the size of Dickens County," he said.
But at age 86, something was still missing. On May 25, Fletcher came back to Spur to join the Class of 2012 as an honorary graduate.
Jack Fletcher is seen during his graduation ceremony May 25 in Spur, Texas.
"The superintendent assured them I was no slow learner, even though it's taken me 70 years," he said.
Though age separated Fletcher from the 10 teens graduating, he had no trouble fitting in as he joked around with the group.
"If you would have waited until you were 86 years old to graduate, you could've had a camera come film you," he joked with one of the grads.
The first named called, Fletcher walked across the stage in his blue cap and gown and finally received his high school diploma. He ended the day by tossing his cap with the other graduates.
"Spur will always hold a special place in my heart," he said.
Msnbc.com staff contributed to this report from NBC station KCBD's Tiffany Pelt.
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