Last week, at 95 years old, veteran Corporal Lewie Shaw earned his high school diploma. The former Marine dropped out of high school more than 70 years ago during World War II, and received his diploma last Thursday during a Veterans Day ceremony at Claremore High School in Oklahoma. He wore a red cap and gown over his military uniform to receive his diploma. “It’s a thrill,” Cpl. Shaw told local Oklahoma news outlet KJRH.
Shaw was a 17-year-old orphan when he dropped out of high school to begin working as a bus driver and a janitor, before he enlisted in the Marines in 1943. He served during World War II and fought in Tinian, Saipan and Iwo Jima and was wounded during the war. “A phosphorus grenade got me across the backside," he told KJRH. "And I didn’t want to tell anybody. A good Marine doesn’t get shot in the back.”
After the war, he says his life was rather quiet. For 30 years he worked for a lumber company before eventually going into construction with his son. “I’ve lived a dull life, worked hard, had a wonderful marriage of 65 years,” he told local paper the Claremore Progress.
Shaw’s graduation took place in front of students in the high school gymnasium; his great-granddaughter Sarah Bruce was one of the students in the crowd. Claremore NJROTC Commanding Officer Katrina Sherrick spoke at the graduation saying, “Mr. Shaw, all of Claremore High School is here today to participate in your Claremore High School graduation. Today we add to that great uniform you so proudly wear, by presenting you the graduation cap and gown you sacrificed 76 years ago to answer the call of duty to defense of our nation.”
“This is a great opportunity for us and our students to experience the greatest generation of all time, and they are leaving us pretty quickly,” superintendent of Claremore Public Schools Bryan Frazier told the paper. “I think it is important that our students understand that freedom doesn’t come free, and the sacrifices they made are real.”
Shaw says he was able to get by without a high school diploma, but it’s not the advice he would give to those younger than himself, telling KJRH, “My advice to them is to keep clawing, continue digging. Get that education.”
He received his diploma via a law passed in 2001 which allows districts to award veterans of WWII and the Korean War their diplomas.
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