Instead of receiving his high school diploma, 18-year-old Abner Simon got called up for military service.
Simon was ripped out his high school senior class and packed off to boot camp to get ready to fight the Japanese in World War II.
“They didn’t care that I was in school,” the now 89-year-old Baptist pastor told InsideEdition.com. But Simon did. It bothered him that he never got that piece of paper.
“I always missed graduating from high school. I don’t know why. I just did.”
Last week, he got that piece of paper.
Leaning on a cane, Simon slowly hobbled into the gymnasium of Orangefield High School in Texas, where the school band blared through “Pomp and Circumstance,” and the principal handed him a diploma as he stood at the podium wearing an orange cap and gown.
“I was blown away, honey,” Simon said. “You wouldn’t believe what they did at the school. They got these juniors and seniors down. Got the marching band down.
“I was just floored. Oh me. It was just amazing. I was really graduating at last.”
Simon said he was not looking forward to battle while he was in basic training. As a devout Christian, he didn’t want to kill anybody. He also wasn’t fond of the idea of being killed.
As it turned out, he didn’t have to experience either.
Just as he was finishing boot camp, the U.S. dropped two atomic bombs on Japan.
“They called me up and told me turn in my M-1 (rifle). I gave my M-1 back and said ‘Why?’ They said ‘You’re going home.’ Hot diggity dog! I was going home!”
He came back to Texas and worked the oil ships in Port Arthur. In 1949, “the Lord called me to preach,” he said. He’s been doing it ever since.
He now lives in Richmond, Va., where he is associate pastor at the Clover Hill Baptist Church.
“I’m still employed,” he said, laughing.
He’s also been invited back to Orangefield High, where he will speak at the school’s 2017 graduation.