A World War II hero from Texas received his high school diploma this week — 79 years after his education was interrupted so he could help free Europe from the Nazis.
“I never graduated from high school,” Don Huisenga, 98, told KTXS News of Abilene. “I was taken in the service in 1943.”
A year later he leaped into Normandy, France as one of the elite paratroopers at the spearhead of the liberation of Europe before being wounded and then captured by the Germans.
“I got blown back 30 feet and was picked up by two Polish boys,” said Huisenga. “They picked me up and all I had on me was a shredded shirt and shorts.”
He was recovering in a hospital when he was captured and became a Nazi prisoner of war, the outlet noted.
The soldier weighed 175 pounds when he joined the service and only 100 pounds after eight months of captivity, he told Fox West Texas.
Huisenga was raised in Iowa before settling in San Angelo, Texas after the war. A local social worker heard of Huisenga’s regret over not graduating and contacted school officials in his hometown.
“I knew right away that we had to make this happen,” said Kevin Litterer, an official with the East Sac County (Iowa) School District.
Litterer traveled to San Angelo to help present Huisenga his official 1943 Auburn High School diploma this week, in a ceremony at San Angelo VA Clinic that was celebrated by Huisenga’s family and friends.
“Thrilled to pieces. I couldn’t be more thrilled than I am right now,” Huisenga said.
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WWII hero Don Huisenga graduates high school at age 98 – S.G.E