102-year-old WWII veteran receives high school diploma, belated medals (VIDEO)

More than 80 years after dropping out of high school to go fight in the war, a 102-year-old New York resident received his high school diploma, along with 10 long-overdue military medals.

In a ceremony in Buffalo last week, U.S. Army Capt. Sydney Cole was handed his diploma, complete with the seal that would have been used in 1934. The event was arranged by U.S. Congressman Brian Higgins, who called Cole a hero.

Cole dropped out of school in 1933, and when he was initially turned down by the U.S. Army Air Corps, he went to Canada and joined the Canadian Royal Air Force. When the U.S. declared involvement in World War II, Cole returned to the States and joined the U.S. Army.

But Cole was shot down on January 2, 1945, while flying an artillery observation plane. He was taken prisoner by German soldiers and remained a Prisoner of War until the war ended.

“Capt. Cole’s heroism, at the risk of his own life, his dedication to the principals of freedom, his exemplary devotion to his duty as an American fighting man, are in keeping with the highest tradition of the American Military,” Higgins said during the ceremony.

Cole, however, was taken aback by the show of support.

“This time of my life, right now, is the most I have ever had of a group that really appreciated what I did with my life,” Cole said.

[ WIVB ]