It was a walk 70 years in the making, so Alvia Hearren didn’t mind taking his time with it.
Hearren received his diploma during graduation Friday at Benton Harbor High School in Michigan.
The World War II veteran was supposed to graduate with his class on June 9, 1943. But Hearren felt a higher calling.
He joined the Marine Corps in December of 1942, feeling an obligation to do what he could for the country during World War II. Though he completed the courses required to graduate with his class, military duty kept him from being able to attend commencement.
On what was supposed to be his graduation day, Hearren was well on his way to becoming an aircraft mechanic at Cherry Point. Eventually, he shipped out to serve in the South Pacific at the tail end of the war.
Though his parents later received his high school diploma in the mail, he never felt the thrill of walking across the stage and being handed his diploma — until Friday night.
"It was a wonderful thing," Hearren said. "There were some friends of mine there, and I had my children there. They had my name put out there in the yard as a graduate."
Hearren said he had always thought about missing his high school graduation. That thought turned to action when he called his old high school and asked about the possibility of joining the class of 2013 for graduation.
Benton Harbor High Principal Kathy Brooks jumped at the chance to honor Hearren and allowed him to take part in the ceremony.
But walking on stage was not Hearren’s only involvement in the Friday evening ceremony.
"I got to sit up there on the podium," he said. "I had the chance to say a few words and to shake hands with all the graduates."
Hearren said the current graduates welcomed him with open arms. After all, once a Benton Harbor Tiger, always a Benton Harbor Tiger.
"It was a wonderful ceremony," Hearren said. "I think they (the graduates) enjoyed it. I know I did."