Korean War Vet Receives High School Diploma at 76

By Rachel Martin

November 28, 2012 Updated Nov 28, 2012 at 12:14 AM EDT

NEW HAVEN, Ind. (www.incnow.tv) – A Hoagland man proves it's never too late to follow your dreams after receiving his high school diploma at 76-years-old.

After waiting for 58 years, officials with the East Allen County School (EACS) district awarded Russ Rothgeb his high school diploma Tuesday night.

In 1953, Rothgeb was a Senior at Hoagland High School when he decided to quit and join the United States Army to fight in the Korean War.

“They needed soldiers, they needed military people and fighting for freedom seemed to be the thing to do,” he said.

He says at the time, he thought he could make a career out of being in the military, but says it wasn't a good fit for him.

After three years with the Army, he returned home and spent the next 40 years working in Fort Wayne. Rothgeb says although he's proud to have served his country, he's always regretted not finishing high school.

“I have been so disappointed with myself and so ashamed for not graduating that it’s bothered me a lot over the years,” he said.

Rothgeb says he didn't realize he could get his high school diploma until he saw a link on the Veterans Administration (VA) website advertising it. He contacted them and a few weeks later he received an email saying EACS will award him his diploma in 90 days. Rothgeb says it’s “unbelievable.”

“It's kind of like a dream come true, a lifetime dream come true. It's almost unbelievable to me,” he said.

Rothgeb says now that he has his diploma, maybe he'll pursue higher education.

“Maybe law school. Maybe criminal justice. Beyond that, maybe I’ll just sit back and take life easy,” he said with a grin.

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