Watch: 95-Year-Old WWII Vet Receives High School Diploma

SEMINOLE HEIGHTS, FL — Joe Perricone couldn’t help but stand out among the fresh-faced 2019 graduates walking down the aisle to the music of Pomp and Circumstance.

It wasn’t merely the white hair and wrinkles that sent second glances his way. It was the beaming smile on his face.

At the age of 95, Perricone was finally accepting his long-overdue high school diploma.

Perricone was all set to graduate with his class at Hillsborough High School in Tampa in 1943 when he received his draft notice. Instead of donning a mortar board and tassle with the rest of his classmates, Perricone was wearing an M1 military helmet and fighting the enemy in Europe.

“The draft board said you go and serve your country and be a big boy,” recalled Perricone. “So I went.”

Over the years, he said he often regretted missing his graduation ceremony and told the story to his grandson, Hillsborough County Circuit Court Judge Tom Palermo, countless times.

This year, 76 years after the rest of his grandfather’s high school class graduated, Palermo decided to see to it that Perricone was officially handed his diploma during a high school graduation ceremony. He contacted the Perricone’s alma mater and arranged for his grandfather to participate in the Class of 2019 graduation.

Perricone said he was thrilled to accept his diploma from Hillsborough High School Principal Gary Brady.

“I never thought I’d be wearing one of these things,” said Perricone, shaking his head and gesturing toward his red cap and gown.