MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — He left high school 71 years ago, but a World War II Veteran finally received his diploma on Monday.

Russell Whittaker was 17 years old when he left Mound High School in 1944 to enlist in the U.S. Navy. He was one of thousands of U.S. service members who put their schooling on hold to serve in World War II.

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On Monday night, he was finally awarded his diploma after his son Paul contacted the school.

Whittaker says he often thought about the fact he didn’t finish high school.

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“I talked about it, especially when I went to Dunwoody,” Whittaker said. “Geometry got the best of me. If it hadn’t been for my wife, I wouldn’t have made it through.”

Whittaker served as a minesweeper in the Philippines during World War II. He was honorably discharged in 1947.

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The district awarded him his diploma based on his further education in the military, post-secondary school and life experience.