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DENVER — A 71-year-old Army veteran is preparing for his high school graduation after missing his 1964 ceremony because he was enlisted, a day he’s regretted missing for decades.

Dave Shuker attended Abraham Lincoln High School in the early 1960s. After his junior year, he decided to enlist in the Army to ease the financial burden on his family.

“I made the decision to go to make things easier on my family, make things easier for my siblings. Best for all of us,” Shuker said. “[They] didn’t have to support me and give me lunch money every day and stuff like that. It takes a financial toll on people.”

He spent a majority of his time in the Army in Germany, stationed along the Berlin Wall.

“It was scary. You would hear gunshots in the middle of the night. You’d hear land mines going off every once in a while. It was scary. Especially when you’re 17 years old,” Shuker said.

While he was overseas, his mind wandered back to Colorado and the events he was missing.

“I used to lay there at night thinking about it. Thinking about my buddies all walking down the aisle and getting their diplomas,” Shuker said. “No class ring, no letter jacket. That’s all stuff you miss. You really miss it. And you think about it too.”

While he got his GED in the Army, he never received a high school diploma. And while he doesn’t regret his time in the military, his lack of a diploma has weighed on him all these years.

“All the kids I went to school with all those years, when I was sitting on the Berlin Wall, here they were marching down the aisle. Wasn’t right. But it’s in the past and I have to live with it,” Shuker said.

Thanks to Operation Recognition, Shuker will receive his 1964 diploma alongside the Abraham Lincoln High School class of 2017.

Operation Recognition offers eligible veterans older than 60 years old a chance to receive a diploma if they left high school early to enlist.

“The only thing my mom ever really asked us to do what graduate high school and I let her down. And now, I hope she is looking down now and proud, because I am,” Shuker said.

While he’s thrilled about next week, he said it’s more important to celebrate the graduates of 2017.

“The kids graduating here for 2017, they’ll be looking back on this day. It’ll be one of their prouder moments and I’m really happy to share it with them,” said Shuker.

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