June 20, 2005 – Posted at 4:39 p.m. CDT
EVENING SHADE, AR -- Most high school students spend their graduation ceremonies listening to speeches about striving for success and how to ready for the future. So it's pretty unusual to have a student that's retired...3 times.
But a 71-year-old Evening Shade man just received his high school diploma, an achievement 53 years in the making.
Henry "Hank" Rivers said, “I told mother I was going to go to mass, instead I went early that morning and then I was going to go to school. I went down to the recruiting office...45 minutes later he handed me a bus pass and said your bus leaves in 30 minutes.”
And with that, the 18-year-old high school junior joined the military.
“When I had my orders to go to Korea, I couldn't tell mother that, no way, there's no way. So I fibbed to mother and told her, they're going to send me to Alaska,” laughed Rivers.
But after his first letter from Korea, his mother figured it out. Rivers' military career would take him all over the world...but nothing could replace lost opportunities.
“I missed it, I missed it completely in my senior year and all my classmates graduated and had the cap and gown and the senior prom and all...that I missed,” said Rivers.
Rivers' should have walked with the class of '53, but he didn't don his cap and gown until just a few weeks ago...as part of the Corpus Christi College Academy Class of 2005.
“I told the wife, if you want to take a picture of me, look for that guy with white hair, that will be me,” chuckled Rivers.
“It was just real touching, real touching,” said Rivers’ daughter Dianne Tharp, “We were crying, daddy was up there and the bishop was telling him it was the first time he had ever given a diploma to somebody older than himself.”
His family traveled nearly a thousand miles to watch the moment.
“That cap and gown really met an awful lot to me and that certificate, that diploma meant an awful lot to me to put on my wall. I’ve had many certificates on the wall, but that's going to be my greatest achievement to have the high school diploma,” said Rivers.