Abner Simon never graduated from high school. It wasn’t by choice; he was called upon to serve his country after he was drafted to World War II.
High school senior Simon was ripped from his class and was told to pack his bags for boot camp. He had been called up to go fight the Japanese. But now, 71 years later, he finally received his high school diploma.
The now 89-year-old Baptist pastor told InsideEdition that, “They didn’t care that I was in school.”
It always bothered him that he never received his diploma and never got a chance to walk across that stage with his peers. “I always missed graduating from high school. I don’t know why. I just did.”
That all changed last week for Simon when he finally got that piece of paper that has been haunting him.
As he leant on a cane, Simon gingerly hobbled into the gymnasium at Orangefield High School, Texas, as the school band roared through “Pomp and Circumstance.” As he stood in his orange cap and ground, the principal waited for the World War II veteran to cross the stage and handed him his diploma.
“I was blown away,” Simon said. “You wouldn’t believe what they did at the school. They got these juniors and seniors down. Got the marching band down.” He added, “I was just floored. Oh me. It was just amazing. I was really graduating at last.”
Simon, a devout Christian, was not looking forward to war. He was concerned about having to kill his fellow man, or even worse, being killed himself. Luckily he wasn’t asked to do either.
Just as he was finishing his basic training and being prepped to go out to the Pacific, the U.S. dropped two automic bombs on Japan, ending the war. “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!”
Simon came back to Texas after being dismissed, and worked in the oil ships in Port Arthur. In 1949, “the Lord called me to preach,” he said. He’s been doing it ever since. His graduation isn’t the only graduation he will attend. Orangefield High School asked Simon to be the speaker for their 2017 graduating class.