JERSEY SHORE - After serving his country in the Vietnam War, a Jersey Shore native received his high school diploma - 40 years later.
During a ceremony at the district's school board meeting last Tuesday, Paul J. Herman was presented an honorary diploma - something he missed out on after quitting school to join the U.S. Army in 1966.
"I just figured it was my patriotic duty," Herman said of his decision to leave school.
Paul J. Herman, right, accepts congratulations from Jersey Shore Area School Board President Robert Pryor after Herman was awarded his high school diploma some 40 years after he left school to join the U.S. Army and serve during the Vietnam War.
Herman, who now lives in York, served in the Army for three years. Although he didn't graduate, he made sure to finish school by working for his GED diploma.
"I quit (school) and went into the service," Herman said. "And in the Army I got my GED."
But after a fire, Herman said the record of the diploma was lost.
"Since that happened I just thought, 'That's how life goes.' I couldn't push it because they lost that record." Herman said. "That was out of (the Army's) hands because that record was lost."
The years following he said he didn't think about not having the diploma saying, "It didn't bother me back then."
But recently he said he was thinking about it. Herman said his wife was on the computer when she came across news from Harrisburg that any veteran who had quit school to join the military was entitled to a diploma.
That's when they decided to write a letter to Jersey Shore Area School District, asking he receive his diploma. Herman said his wife wrote the letter, but he wanted to proof read it in order to make sure everything was factual.
"I want everything on there and the truth on there. I don't want to be something I'm not," he said.
Herman added that the district was more than happy to do so.
"I was blown away when my wife said, 'You're going to get your diploma,' " he said.
And as Robert Pryor was reading his letter, outlining Herman's military career - a Purple Heart, two Bronze Stars, Vietnam Service Medal and others - Herman said he was a little "choked up."
"I'm proud to get it," he said. "I never expected to get it."
As John Shireman, board member and fellow Vietnam veteran, handed the diploma to Herman, he said he wanted to give him a greeting not many in the Vietnam War were given, "Welcome home."
Herman said although he found out about war "the hard way," he doesn't regret his decision.
"I wouldn't take it back for a lifetime - for a million dollars - I wouldn't take away that experience," he said. "But I wouldn't want to do it again."