85-Year-Old Graduates from Colorado High School
BRIGHTON, Colo. - Rueben Ayala learned not to talk too much about the things he saw while fighting in Europe during World War II.
"I just... I just went through a lot," the 85-year old said.
It is why his family learned not to ask a lot of questions of the veteran. But even his daughter was a little bit surprised to learn only recently that her dad had never earned his high school diploma.
Ayala was drafted in 1944, right after his junior year of high school. He was 18 years old.
Sixty-six years later, Ayala finally got around to doing what he had wanted to do for so long: he earned that high school diploma.
"I'm just so honored, so very honored to be here today," he said as he got ready to walk onto the football field of Brighton High School on Saturday with the rest of the class of 2010.
It is safe to say that Ayala was probably the only graduate of the day with 13 grandkids and 18 great grandkids.
When his name was finally read, it is also safe to say that Ayala was the only member of the class to receive a standing ovation from the entire crowd.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I am honored to present to you Mr. Rueben Ayala, 2010 graduate of Brighton High School," the speaker said.
Ayala slowly walked to the front grinning as wide as is humanly possible. His daughter, Susan Meador, wiped away a few tears.
"I really think this is a dream come true to him, something that he waited his entire life for," Meador said.
It clearly meant a lot to her as well.
"I remember once in high school we were studying World War II and I asked my dad some questions. He was really tense," she said. "I asked him why it was that he never talked about it, and he said the things that he saw, the things he had to participate in, were horrible. He just said we didn't need to hear those horrible stories."
The diploma was made possible through a program called "Operation Recognition - Veterans Diploma Project." The nonprofit program allows veterans whose high school was interrupted because of WWII, Korea, or Vietnam to receive a diploma.