A former POW who served in World War II received his high school diploma — 73 years after he left high school to join the Army.
What are the details?
Vito Trause, 92, withdrew from East Rutherford High School in New Jersey when he turned 18 to enlist in the military, according to WCBS-TV.
“Everybody wanted to go. My brother went in, my other brother went in, and I went in there, and that was it,” Trause said, according to WCBS. “I was up in the front line about five or six months, and then I got captured from the Germans.”
According to WCBS, Trause was "eventually liberated" from his POW status and returned to his home in New Jersey.
So instead of graduating with the East Rutherford High School Class of 1945, he received his high school diploma along with the class of 2018.
What did he say about graduation?
Trause lauded the graduation ceremony, which was held at his former high school on Wednesday, calling it "tremendous."
The gathered crowd received Trause with cheers of "USA! USA!"
"I felt so great. I even had tears in my eyes, and I don’t cry that often," Trause told WCBS’s Valerie Castro.
During his time in high school, Trause said that he was more interested in sports than he was in academics and admitted that he didn't think he could keep up with the students of 2018.
When asked what valuable lessons he would impart to today's youth, Trause answered, “People should think about our country, respect the flag, respect the servicemen — even the women.”
He also told the graduating class to always remember what Memorial Day is all about, according to the Bergen Record.
Watch the moment this WWII veteran/POW joins the #BectonHighSchool Class of 2018, receiving the diploma he would have earned 73 years ago. Story @northjersey to come. #OperationVito pic.twitter.com/Zahwq8h6Om
— Meghan Grant (@ReporterMeghanG) June 21, 2018
According to the Bergen Record, Trause earned the Good Conduct Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, the American Campaign Medal, and the European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three Bronze Stars during his time of service.
What did the principal do?
According to Fox News, high school Principal Dario Sforza was instrumental in ensuring that Trause received his diploma.
When Sforza discovered that Trause — whom the principal called a "town hero" — hadn't received a diploma, Sforza launched "Operation Vito."
"Operation Vito" was designed in order to provide Trause the graduation he never had, complete with diploma. The "operation" also rounded up any "relevant awards — like medals, sashes, and stoles" — all while keeping it a secret from Trause.
According to the Fox News report, Sforza collaborated with New Jersey's Department of Education in order to present Trause with a real diploma — not just an honorary diploma. Sforza also worked with graduates from the 1950s to "recreate the diploma" that Trause would have received in 1945 had he graduated.
Sforza also worked with the military in order to have active duty commanders and sergeants in attendance for Trause's commencement.
Trause was escorted by military personnel to receive his diploma during Wednesday's ceremony and received a standing ovation "from every single person in the audience," according to Sforza.
"Instead of spending time in English class during his senior year, [Trause] was captured by the Germans as a prisoner of war," Sforza said, noting that Trause worked two jobs to support his wife and two children.
"[Trause] can continue to live out all his dreams," Sforza added. "This was just one last mission that he needed to accomplish."