World War II veteran drafted in high school finally gets to walk at graduation
TAMPA, Fla. - Joe Perricone was in the middle of his senior year of high school and looking forward to graduating with the Class of 1943 when he was drafted into World War II.
Perricone attended Hillsborough High School and had hoped to graduate before joining the armed forces. However, duty called before he got his chance to walk across the stage with his classmates. At the age of 19, he was sent to basic training, and then overseas.
But the school helped the now-95-year-old Perricone make up for lost time. On Saturday, he finally reached the milestone he abandoned more than 70 years ago.
Perricone fought with the U.S. Army in World War II, facing off against the Germans. He traveled through France, Belgium, Denmark and the U.K. before he was able to return to the U.S. after 1945.
He says a handkerchief from his fiance, Hope, kept him sane before he was honorably discharged in 1946. He settled down with her once he returned, but graduating high remained a distant dream.
But he finally walked across the stage Saturday at the Florida State Fairgrounds with the rest of the school's Class of 2019. Before the ceremony, he visited the school for the first time in more than seven decades to pick up his cap and gown from principal Gary Brady.
"I think it means the world to see someone we love very much getting to live out a part of his dream," his grandson Tom Palermo told WFTS-TV.
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