Korean War Veteran Graduated High School At Age 87

An 87-year-old man from Michigan just proved that it’s never too late to graduate.

Edward Sanders, from the city of Jackson, got his high school diploma in 2020, at the same time as his great-great-niece, Alex Bissell.

Sanders received his Jackson High School Class of 2020 diploma through a Michigan state act that lets local school boards give high school diplomas to World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans who left high school in order to serve in those conflicts.

Sanders was just 18 years old and halfway through his junior year when he dropped out in 1952 to become an Air Force B-47 bomber pilot in the Korean War. Sanders told MLive he felt like he “was king of the world” when he first started learning to fly at age 15 through a local flight school and then started soloing at 16. That love of flying led him to drop out of school and join the Air Force as a teen.

“Next thing I knew I was in Korea, wishing I was back in Jackson,” Sanders told the publication.

Sanders detailed his journey from Korean War pilot to recent high school graduate in this YouTube video put together by MLive.

Sanders served four years as an active-duty military member and four years in the reserves before leaving the service. He lived in his hometown of Jackson, which is in the south-central part of Michigan, about 40 miles from both Lansing and Ann Arbor, before and after his military service.

After leaving the service, he married a fellow Jackson resident, Patricia, and they had three children, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Sanders told MLive he worked factory jobs and retired from Ann Arbor Tool, but he never flew again after the military.

The idea to contact his old school about belatedly graduation came up in 2020, and Jackson High School’s principal was able to make it happen.

“I never dreamed I could do it,” Sanders said. “I’d given up on it.”

Sanders and great-great-niece Alex Bissell both got their Jackson High diplomas in socially distanced outdoor ceremonies on Aug. 8, 2020 to accommodate gathering restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Sanders’ family shared the news of his graduation on Facebook in July, after he picked up his diploma and cap and gown. Sandy Mays posted, “We are so proud of this Korean War Veteran. He has just turned 87 and finally received his high school diploma from Jackson High School. We are so very happy and proud of Edward Sanders … Congratulations.”

And Sarah Alldaffer-Soltis, who calls Sanders “Uncle Ed,” posted this great image of the new graduate to the social media site.

Congratulations on a long-overdue diploma, Mr. Sanders!