WWII veteran, 84, gets diploma

FORT WORTH -- Orange A. Cunningham was 18 when the United States called him to serve in World War II.

Cunningham heeded the call to duty in 1944, but it meant missing his senior year of high school. After military service, family and work beckoned, so Cunningham's dream of earning a high school diploma took a back seat. Still, throughout the 66 years since his draft, Cunningham, an Army veteran, often told relatives that he wanted his diploma.

On Sunday, he received that prized certificate just in time for his 84th birthday. Relatives and friends attended a ceremony at Hope of Glory Kingdom Ministries in north Fort Worth.

"I feel good," Cunningham said before the celebration.

He felt so strongly about his dream that his family worked to help him realize it.

"During the whole time he has talked about his diploma," said Mildred Marshall, one of his three daughters.

After some historical sleuth work, the help of state Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, the Buffalo school district and the Texas Education Agency, Cunningham received an honorary diploma.

The school district established that if Cunningham were a senior today, he would be a student in the Buffalo schools, between Dallas and Houston, Veasey said.

For the ceremony, Cunningham had a black cap and gown with a purple and gold tassel -- the spirit colors for Buffalo High School. Cunningham has a knack for writing, so relatives presented Veasey with a poem that Cunningham penned.

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