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It's never too late: WWII veteran finally awarded his high school diploma

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Russell Joseph Whittaker has finally been awarded his high school diploma – 71 years after dropping out of school to fight for his country.

Whittaker left Mound High School when he was 17 to serve on a U.S. Navy minesweeper during World War II, Westonka Public Schools says. He was one of thousands who put their education on hold to fight in World War II, WCCO notes.

And on Monday, at age 88, he received his diploma from Mound Westonka High School, with the school district 

" target="_blank">writing on Facebook:

"In consideration of his further education in the military, post-secondary school and life experience, and in grateful appreciation of his service to our country, the School Board of Westonka School District 277 was proud to award a Mound Westonka High School diploma to Russell Whittaker on July 13, 2015."

Whittaker served in the U.S. Pacific Fleet aboard the U.S.S. YMS 121 from December 1944 to April 1946, receiving an honorable discharge in 1947, the Facebook post notes.

Following the war, he married Winnifred Kaufhold in 1948 and the couple had four sons and one daughter, the district says. Whittaker went on to study at Dunwoody Institute to become an electrician, having a "very successful career" until he retired in 1989.

But he still never got his high school diploma, so his son asked the school board to make an exception – and they were very happy to do so, FOX 9 notes.

"Thank you for the kind and thoughtful words as you presented my grandfather with his diploma. Our family is truly appreciative of the time you took to recognize my grandfather!" Katie Nelson, Whittaker's granddaughter, commented on the district's Facebook post.

Westonka Public Schools Superintendent Kevin Borg told FOX 9 that the district has never awarded a diploma in such a way in the decade he's been at the helm.

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