Tennessee WWII veteran surprised with high school diploma

(Courtesy: WATE)

MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Friends and family surrounded a Blount County World War II veteran Thursday as he received a huge surprise – an honorary high school diploma.

Charles Veal, 91, was on the USS Gillette the year he was supposed to graduate from Maryville High School. He spent his senior year serving our country instead of walking across the stage. Now, he can call himself a high school graduate.

“I think it’s wonderful. This right here means a whole lot to me,” he said at the surprise ceremony at Clover Hill Assisted Living in Maryville.

When Blount County Veterans Affairs Officer Nathan Weinbaum learned that Veal didn’t get to graduate due to serving in the Navy, he wanted to help.

“It’s been decades since he left school so it wasn’t something he was pursuing, but I wanted to pursue it because he’s earned it and he’s served our country,” said Weinbaum.

Veal served in the U.S. Navy from 1943 to 1965 during World War II and re-enlisting during the Korean War. After serving admirably, he went to work, never getting his high school diploma.

“This diploma means everything to me because it’s the only way I would have got it and I appreciate it and everyone that was involved in it,” said Veal.

This was the 10th honorary diploma awarded by the Blount County Veterans Affairs Office since 2014.