NEWTON, Ill. (WTWO/WAWV)– Robert Coad joined the military at the age of 19 and went on to serve in World War II.

He wasn’t able to finish high school, but he wanted his diploma.

However there was one obstacle in the way.

“When he came down with COVID-19 we were very worried about him and we weren’t sure what was going to happen. And at that time we could only come to window to visit with him or talk over the phone. In one of those visits with my sister he told her that if he made through COVID-19, he wanted to get his diploma or GED,” said Debra Leachman, Robert’s granddaughter.

Coad began preparing for the milestone with the help of his granddaughters.

“Deanna brought me the papers to study and I realized that was over my head. But I still wanted to try it. All she did was bring me the papers but I thought it was funny, she never followed up in anyway,” he explained.   

Robert received an honorary diploma at a surprise graduation from Newton Community High School.

He said he still can’t believe it.

“I feel kind of guilty because I didn’t really take the classes. But I’ve got it and I’m happy,” Coad said.

He hopes to inspire younger generations.

“I wish that this could help some child or person who just wants to quit and they’ll decide maybe I can make it and they’ll stay with it.”