Oklahoma World War II veteran gets diploma 68 years later

Billy Joe Dill skipped out of high school shortly before graduation so he could join the Marines in 1944. He was stationed in the Pacific until the war ended, when he returned home and started his life in Frederick. The school district surprised the 85-year-old with a diploma Thursday night.
BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL ccoppernoll@opubco.com Modified: May 17, 2013 at 7:41 pm •  Published: May 17, 2013
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— Billy Joe Dill was just a few months away from high school graduation, but that was irrelevant.

Winter had come. Dill was 17½. It was time to leave.

“I had to go into the United States Marine Corps,” he said. “The war was going on. It was World War II. They needed bodies.”

Dill left his hometown of Frederick in December 1944 and was stationed as a gunner aboard the USS Chicago in the Pacific. He served with honor until the war ended. He came home in 1946. He got married, became a father and worked as a mechanic.

But Thursday night, Dill got to finish what he started.

The 85-year-old received his diploma from Frederick High School along with the graduating class of 2013. It was enough to nearly make him cry.

“It was pretty neat,” he said. “It was 68 years since I would have graduated. It's quite a deal.”

Dill received his diploma through the Oklahoma Veterans' High School Diploma Program, which allows local school districts to give diplomas to veterans who left high school early to serve in World War II, the Korean War or in the Vietnam War.