HALSTEAD, Kan. (KSNW) — It was a moment unlike anything Halstead High School has ever experienced. Wilbur R. Nachtigal, 95, received his diploma Saturday afternoon after a 78-year delay.

“It’s a big honor for anybody, but especially me,” said the Halstead native, who would have been a member of Halstead’s 1946 graduating class. Instead, he made the decision to leave high school at age 17 to serve in World War II.

The veteran was a payroll clerk in the U.S. Marine Corps, holding the rank of Private First-Class. For his sacrifice, Halstead High School gladly awarded him his long-awaited diploma.

“This is really something special. I didn’t expect this much. And I’m very proud they gave that much to me,” said Wilbur R. Nachtigal.

Dragons Principal Chad Baalman said Nachtigal inquired about receiving a diploma just a few weeks ago.

“Kind of the process I went through was I presented it to our school board to make sure they were okay with it first. And there wasn’t just a yes from them, it was a ‘Why wouldn’t we want to do that?’ And so it’s just kind of a special thing for obviously myself but also for the kids,” Baalman said.

Three generations of Nachtigal’s family attended the ceremony, including five of his great-grandchildren. They said they could not be more proud of all his accomplishments.

“He’s very smart, he’s very astute. He is a mechanic; he’s helped this town. They all used to know where he lives, he knows everybody. So, for him to have this honor is just such a beautiful thing,” said Hillary Cardenas, Nachtigal’s granddaughter.

While this is the first time Halstead has awarded a veteran with their diploma. Baalman said he looks forward to the possibility of recognizing others in the same way.