PHELAN (CBSLA) — Six San Bernardino County men who never finished high school because they went to serve their country in World War II, Korea and Vietnam are finally being recognized for their service and life experience.

Willie Thomas says he thought about his education while he was in the Army, but he couldn’t make it a priority during the Vietnam War.

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“Decided it’s best to go into the army, because there wasn’t a whole lot going on as far as working and all of that back in the time,” Thomas said. “Every time I’d go to a class for GED I’d get orders to go somewhere else.”

Navy veteran Harry Hay says it was hard to return home from his deployments without a diploma.

“Especially when you go apply for job, try to explain,” Hay said.

The County of San Bernardino says these men should never have had to explain the sacrifices they made. That’s why they arranged this long overdue graduation ceremony.

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“It’s never too late to recognize them for their service,” Frank Guevera, of San Bernardino County Dept. of Veterans Affairs, said.

These veterans say this isn’t just a piece of paper. The diploma means a lot more to them and their families.

“talking to my kids, it means an awful lot.

“To me, it’s a blessing. Even at my age, it’s a blessing.

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“This is just a small way in which we can show our appreciation for the service and sacrifice you made to ensure the safety of a great nation. so here’s to the class of 2017,” Ted Alejandre, San Bernardino County Superintendent, said.