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Air Force veteran receives diploma after more than 50 years

Air Force veteran receives diploma after more than 50 years

Robert Terry, left, Dyess Air Force Base veteran, receives his Abilene High School diploma from David Young, right, Abilene Independent School District superintendent at Johnston Elementary School, Nov. 16, 2017. Terry promised his mother that he would earn his diploma after dropping out of school to join the U.S. Air Force and help his family in 1962. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rebecca Van Syoc)

DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 1.9 million people graduated from high school in 1962, earning a diploma that they could later display to family, friends and colleagues.

For Robert Terry, a U.S. Air Force veteran, earning his diploma was an adventure spanning more than 50 years after joining the military. He was able to receive it at a post-Veteran’s Day event at Johnston Elementary School.

It all began in 1962 when Terry was 17 years old.

“We were struggling as a family to make ends meet,” Terry said. “My mother was trying very hard to raise three of us on her own, but it became obvious that she needed help. I dropped out of school in order to get a job.”

It wouldn’t take long before Terry found an option open to him: the U.S. Air Force.

“I was driving by a recruiting office and wound up speaking to the officer inside,” Terry said. “I decided to join, but had to promise my mother that I would finish my high school education and get a diploma if she’d let me join.”

Terry would then spend three years at Dyess Air Force Base and then one year in Vietnam before being honorably discharged. It wouldn’t be until 2017 before he would receive his diploma from David Young, Abilene Independent School District superintendent.

“I was thrilled to have the opportunity to award a diploma to Mr. Terry,” Young said. “He has certainly performed an honorable service to our country and Abilene for 41 years. He is a wonderful example of dedication and perseverance for everyone in the Abilene community.”

Though Terry is a native of Atlanta, Georgia, he had a very personal reason to obtain a diploma from Abilene ISD.

“I wanted to get my diploma specifically from Abilene because it is where my two daughters graduated from,” Terry said. “It was on my bucket list for a long time, and a promise I made to my mother. I want my children and grandchildren to realize how important it is to have this education.”