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Army veteran receives high school diploma at 83

By Josephine E. Moore, The Register-Herald

BECKLEY, W.Va. — Before completing his senior year of high school in Beckley, Billy F. Garretson left to join the U.S. Army, serving from 1958 to 1964.

Though he graduated from a military academy, worked as a minister for decades and earned other educational certificates, a high school diploma always eluded him.

That was until Tuesday, when, at 83, Garretson was awarded a high school diploma from Raleigh County Schools during a school board meeting.

Garretson said he was honored by the gesture and humbled to be able to share the moment with his family, some of whom also have high school diplomas from Raleigh County Schools.

“It’s such an honor for the Veterans Administration to take care of this,” he said. “I wanted to have that last diploma because . I’d finished 11 years, and I wanted that last year. And they said if went into service before (graduation) that they had a form, and I remember, and so they filled it out and everything and that’s what got me here. They’re taken care of people that didn’t have a chance.”

Garretson’s service was also recognized by Del. Christopher Toney, a bus driver for Raleigh County Schools, who read a statement of recognition on behalf of the State of West Virginia.

In his statement, Toney said Garretson’s sacrifice and service for his state and country “should serve as a model for those in Raleigh County, the state of West Virginia and beyond.”

Those words were echoed by a representative from Sen. Joe Manchin’s office, who presented Garretson with an American flag flown over the U.S. Capitol in honor of Garretson.

Speaking to the Raleigh school board members and others gathered at the meeting, Garretson admitted to nearly being brought to tears by their words and actions.

“I want to thank the Board of Education of Raleigh County, the Veterans Association that set this up and … everyone that works in this board. I appreciate you so much, and thank you for all that you do,” he said.

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