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Navy vet, grandson graduate high school

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Posted at 6:03 PM, Jun 24, 2012
and last updated 2012-06-24 20:21:29-04

A graduation ceremony marked a double celebration for a family in New York state.

Decades after a Navy vet dropped out of high school, he got to graduate this weekend with his grandson.

They’ve waited years for this moment: high school graduation.

At the 108th commencement of Johnsburg Central School, no one waited longer than 67-year-old Russell Leigh.

“A lot of waiting. A lot of years of waiting.”

Leigh dropped out of high school in 1961 at age 16 to serve in the Navy as a Nuclear Power Electrician aboard submarines.  

Now, 51 years later, he’ll get his diploma through Operation Recognition.  

The state program lets World War Two, Korean and Vietnam war veterans who didn’t finish high school, receive a diploma, as long as they have a high school equivalency.
“I just found out about it. I got the school newsletter the beginning of June, second or third, I read it on Saturday and on Monday I came up to see Mr. Markwica about doing it.”

Leigh wasn’t the only family member to graduate Saturday. He got to share the moment with his grandson.

“It’s an opportunity that not many people get. And it’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime things that you’ll never really understand until after the fact. I think it’ll start to sink in a little later on.”

“Russell William Lee, local diploma.”

“I think it’s right in there with days that I’ll remember for a long time.”

And Leigh’s grandson, who also graduated yesterday, is carrying on the family military  tradition.

He’s just enlisted in the Army.