Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
A Chicago veteran missed his graduation day in 1944 serving in World War II. But on Thursday, he walked across the stage, officially graduating with the Class of 2019.
William Wagner, 94, was drafted during the last half of his senior year at Tilden High School on Chicago's South Side, ABC7 reported.
“They told me to take history and civics to get my diploma,” Wagner told ABC7. “I went to the draft board and they said, 'Punk you got a number, you got to go.'”
On June 12, 1943, a date he said he can easily recall, he joined the Navy, serving as a cook onboard the USS Yosemite, whose company repaired ships destroyed in the war, according to ABC7.
Forrest Wagner, the WWII vet's son, arranged for the school to send him the diploma, which came a day before William Wagner's birthday on March 7, ABC7 reported. The diploma then became his birthday present, complete with balloons and a graduation cap.
“How awesome is that for a young teenager to sit back and put his country before his own wants and needs,” Forrest told ABC7. “What he scarified for me and my brothers and sisters, and then also for his country, I believe I will never be able to repay.”
William told ABC7 that walking across the stage at this year's graduation ceremony came at a close second as the best moment in his life, with the first being his marriage.
“Seventy-six years,” William said. “It took me that long to get my diploma, instead of going through four years.”