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Michigan veteran receives high school diploma after 48 years

October 29, 2018

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Forty-eight years after leaving Eastern High School to join the United States Navy, Dann Huisken recently received his diploma.

In 1970, the now-retired chief petty officer was an 18-year-old senior at Eastern who decided to enlist in the midst of the Vietnam War.

“I knew I needed structure and to get away,” Huisken, 66, told the Lansing State Journal . “The Navy was the perfect opportunity.”

He first moved to Lansing in fourth grade, attending Forest View Elementary, West and Water French junior high schools en route to Eastern.

His mother wouldn’t let him join the United States Army. She did, however, allow him to enlist in the U.S. Navy.

“She liked their uniforms,” Huisken said moments before he was awarded his high school diploma by the district’s Board of Education.

Under Michigan law, honorably discharged veterans of World War II, Korea, or Vietnam can obtain their high school diplomas if they enlisted or were drafted before they could do so.

After enlisting, Huisken headed to Detroit for a battery of tests and was made a radioman after acing a communications test. Huisken volunteered to go to San Diego for boot camp. His first posting in the Navy was in the Philippines, where he stayed for 18 months. He was assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Constellation in 1973, which was stationed off the coast of Vietnam.

Later, after undergoing shoulder surgery, Huisken was stationed on the Greek island of Crete as well as in Nevada. He was honorably discharged from the Navy in 1980 after a decade of active service. He followed that with 16 years in the Navy Reserve.

Before leaving active duty, Huisken applied for and received his GED. But he still wanted that high school diploma from his former school.

“It’s always been something he wished he had,” Jill Huisken, his wife of 22 years, said. “A high school diploma represents your school. He is committed to this area.”

It was only recently that Jill Huisken received a call from her husband while at work, letting her know he’d learned of the law allowing him to obtain his diploma.

Dann and Jill Huisken sat beside their two children Luke and Dannielle during Lansing’s Board of Education meeting Thursday night.

“It’s amazing,” his son said. “This is one of those big family moments.”

Upon Board President Rachel Lewis announcing the awarding of his diploma, Dann Huisken, dressed in his formal white uniform, pumped his fist in celebration.

“I’m just full of wonderful thoughts, wonderful feelings,” he said. “This means the world to me, it does. This has been on my mind a long time and it’s not just a bucket list, this is on top of the list.”

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Information from: Lansing State Journal, http://www.lansingstatejournal.com

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