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WWII veteran gets diploma at age 89

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Seventy-three years after he left Albuquerque High School to fight in World War II, Dennis J. Baca of Albuquerque took home a diploma Wednesday night.

Albuquerque High School Principal Tim McCorkle hands a diploma to Dennis J. Baca, an 89-year-old World War II veteran who left school when he was 16 in 1941 to fight in the Army. (Jon Swedien/Journal)

Albuquerque High School Principal Tim McCorkle hands a diploma to Dennis J. Baca, an 89-year-old World War II veteran who left school when he was 16 in 1941 to fight in the Army. (Jon Swedien/Journal)

The Albuquerque school board and Superintendent Winston Brooks presented Baca, 89, with a diploma during Wednesday’s board meeting.

His granddaughter, Desiree Sanchez, said the diploma meant a lot to Baca.

“Thank you all for doing this for him,” she told the board and other school officials at the meeting.

Baca left school when he was 16 in 1941 to serve in the Army. He fought in the Pacific theater until 1945, Sanchez said.

After the war, Baca worked for 30 years as a nursing assistant at a veterans hospital, Sanchez said.

It was the seventh such ceremony the district has held since the New Mexico Legislature allowed school districts to present veterans with diplomas in 2005, according to an APS news release.

“This man and his family are such good role models for students and all of us today because they believe that education is important enough to come back all these years later to receive their high school diploma,” Brooks said.

The Albuquerque High School Army JROTC Color Guard performed in honor of Baca.

Afterward, the district provided a graduation cake and refreshments, and one reporter asked Baca what he planned to do next now that he had a high school diploma.

“Eat cake,” Baca said.

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