59 years later, Durant veteran gets high school diploma

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DURANT, OK - A local war veteran whose education was cut short more than 50 years ago got a special surprise today while touring the new high school in Durant.

Paul Eppler celebrated his 76th birthday today, so his family decided to surprise him with a gift he wanted more than anything in the world, his high school diploma.

"I'm so happy I can't even describe it," said Eppler.

Paul Eppler thought he was just here to tour the new Durant High School, but his family was able to surprise him with much more.

"Oh it's exciting, I know he's looked forward to this for years, and never really thought it would happen," said Ola Eppler.

"He's always wanted to get that diploma and we were able to surprise him on his birthday, so we're excited about that," daughter Karla Gibson said.

Eppler's high school career at Durant was cut short in the middle of his junior year in 1952 when he quit school to serve his country in the Korean War.

"We were from a poor family and it was kind of hard making a living, so I joined the Navy when I was 16, so they could have more to eat," Eppler said.

Eppler served in the Navy 3 years and 9 months as a 3rd class boatswain mate. When he came back he got his GED and worked in retail until he retired.

"He's a very unselfish person, and I think that was the first generous thing he did was quitting school to serve his country like his friends were doing, and he felt like he needed to do that," Gibson said.

Eppler's wife, Ola, says Paul had mentioned wanting his high school diploma a few times, but they had never checked into it, so this year, she decided to make that dream come true.

"I got on the Internet and found out what I needed to do and what papers needed to be submitted and then they called me from the school, and said well we want to do something special," Ola said.

Eppler says he couldn't have asked for a better birthday present.

"I told my wife, I wished I had my diploma, and she said well what for you've got your GED, and I said no I want my diploma, and I got it today," Eppler said.

Ola was able to get Paul's diploma through the Oklahoma State Department of Education - Life long learning section. For more information visit the website below.


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