On Sunday afternoon, Raymond Smith’s friends and family gathered at Emeritus of Medina, an assisted living home, to celebrate his 92nd birthday.
The group was also celebrating another milestone: Smith received an Elyria High School diploma from Army Lt. Col. Roy Jenkins.
“I got it,” Smith said, as the group applauded.
Ohio law allows qualifying veterans — those who dropped out of high school and then served in World War II, the Korean War or the Vietnam War — to receive their diplomas.
Smith dropped out of high school after his freshman year to support his three younger siblings, according to his family.
He married his wife, Alene, 90, in 1941.
Smith served in the army from 1942 to 1945. While overseas in the final years of World War II, he worked as a truck driver hauling everything from wristwatches to tank wheels, he said.
“I slept in all different barracks,” he recalled. “I met all different people.”
Jenkins said the law exists to “right some wrongs.” He said it gives veterans “what they wish they could have, should have done back then.”
Jenkins, who is in charge of Elyria High’s Junior ROTC program, also presented Smith with army baseball cap, a coffee mug, an Elyria High backpack, and some modern military rations.
When Smith returned from the service after the war, he worked for Elyria Water Works, a water treatment plant, and the Lorain steel plant.
For the majority of his working life, he was a boiler room operator for the Harshaw Chemical Co., now known as BASF.
Larry Smith, his son, said Smith always had a book on hand while he worked.
“He was an avid reader,” he said.
Smith’s daughter, Donna Neuberger, said her father came up with the idea of getting the belated diploma. She said he saw a story in The Chronicle-Telegram about a Korean War veteran who received his diploma in October. He told his family he wanted his as well.
“He felt he deserved one,” she said.
Smith has five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, and the oldest two graduated from high school this spring.
Contact Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or firstname.lastname@example.org.