Navy Times talked briefly to former Aviation Storekeeper 3rd Class Fred Stroman a few weeks back when we found out he’d be graduating high school — just a few years late.
Stroman enlisted in the Navy in 1964 while in high school — young enough, he said, that his mother had to sign the paperwork. When he was told he’d be a half-credit short of graduation, he “was so upset that I left school that day and went to the reserve center and told them that I was ready to start my two years of service,” he said in a school district news release.
So into the service he went, starting at submarine school before serving on aircraft carriers, including a deployment to Vietnam. He served until 1968 — recalled to active duty briefly, he said, as part of the Navy’s response to the seizing of the research ship Pueblo by North Korea.
Stroman, 65, went onto a career in the postal service. Since retired, he speaks at churches in Missouri. The high school diploma he’d never received never really bothered him, he said, until he saw his own children earn diplomas.
But what could he do about it? When he saw a news report about another senior citizen receiving a degree, he put a message on Facebook saying a similar honor would be “an answered prayer.”
Thanks to his service, an answer was available.
Texas law allows service members who never graduated because they joined up during wartime to receive diplomas so long as they were honorably discharged. He sent the Pasadena Independent School District his Form DD 214, and they began planning a rare event — a homecoming ceremony with a graduation in the middle of it.
Before Saturday night’s football game against Sam Rayburn (don’t let the result spoil the story), Stroman donned a red cap and gown at midfield and walked to the sideline, accepting his diploma signed by Sam Houston principal Steve Fullen — who was about old enough to start kindergarten when the rest of the Class of 1965 was around.
“Those first few steps were the hardest ones I have ever taken,” Stroman said after the ceremony. “I still have tears in my eyes thinking about it.”