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STROUDSBURG, PA. — It may have taken nearly 70 years, but Stroudsburg resident and veteran George Bush finally received his high school diploma.
The 87-year-old was scheduled to graduate from Stroudsburg High School in June 1945, but was drafted that January to fight in World War II.
Bush was awarded his diploma Thursday before a packed house of Stroudsburg High School parents and students who were there to celebrate the school’s annual Moving Up Day.
On Jan. 16, 1945, Bush received a letter informing him he would be drafted into the U.S. Army. He immediately left Stroudsburg for basic training in Florida.
After his training, Bush was slated to leave for Europe to fight the Germans. Those plans quickly changed on May 7, 1945, when Germany surrendered and Victory in Europe Day was declared on May 8.
Bush’s orders then focused on fighting in Japan, but that required a different type of training than what he had received in Florida. Bush was sent to Alabama for jungle warfare training.
After completing his training, Bush was deployed to the Philippines in August 1945.
Shortly after his arrival, American B-29s dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan quickly surrendered, and World War II ended on Aug. 14, 1945.
Bush remained as part of the Allied occupation forces in the Pacific until he returned for a 30-day leave in the state of Washington in January 1946.
He was then ordered to Fort Ord and Camp Stoneman in California before being discharged.
Bush subsequently returned to Stroudsburg and worked for Instrument Specialties (formerly the Ronson Corp.) in Delaware Water Gap for 56 years.
“He never really talked about it, but I think he always wanted it,” said Bush’s daughter, Diane Knowles of East Stroudsburg, about her father’s desire for his high school diploma.
In November, Bush was watching a news program that featured veterans from the Scranton area who had gone overseas being awarded their high school diplomas during a special ceremony.
“He looked at my mom and said, ‘Do you think I can get mine?’” Knowles said.
Knowles inquired with Stroudsburg School District about whether the high school could issue her father’s diploma.
About a month ago, Bush received a letter informing him he would be honored with the diploma during Thursday’s Moving Up Day.
“I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’” Bush joked about receiving the letter.
He doesn’t have any hard feelings about being drafted in the midst of finishing his high school career. It was just something he accepted as a part of life at the time.
“When I was 18, I knew it was going to happen,” Bush said.
He and his wife, Emma Bush, have five children who are all graduates of Stroudsburg High School.
The couple will celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary next Wednesday, the day after Stroudsburg High School’s graduation.