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90-Year-Old World War II Vet To Get Honorary Degree From Catholic High School

MONTCLAIR, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- A hero who put his country first will be receiving a special honor this graduation season.

CBS2's Vanessa Murdock reported 90-year-old Luke Walsh, a veteran who left Immaculate Conception High School in 1943 to fight in World War II, will be getting an honorary degree from the Catholic school on Thursday.

"I always thought of Immaculate Conception, finishing my Catholic education," Walsh said.

Walsh has been waiting more than 60 years for this day as he can finally add his Catholic school diploma to his public school one.

Walsh was a sophomore at Immaculate Conception when he enlisted for the Navy by following his older brother's lead. He served three years in the Pacific realm as his mates called him "Irish Walsh."

"We were always in fear of danger out there, didn't know what was going to happen," Walsh said.

Walsh worked on a Higgins Boat, laying smoke screens and fishing bombs out of the open water.

"We had sharpshooters in the boat. They would shoot the bombs and blow them up," Walsh explained.

Walsh returned home in 1946 with plans to finish Catholic high school at age 20, but the priests felt he was too old.

His only option became night classes at a public school, and he did eventually graduate in 1950.

"I graduated from Bloomfield High because that was the only place that would give me a diploma," Walsh said.

However, Walsh will finally complete his Catholic education.

"I said I'm getting an honorary degree. I can honestly say I'm an alumni of Immaculate," Walsh said.

Celia Triggs Honohan, president of Immaculate Conception, said the school is "really proud" of Walsh.

"We're really proud of him. He represents the school and the spirit of service that we hold so dear," Honohan said.

Walsh joked, "I'm proud now that they so presented to me, before I die anyhow."

Three Marines in uniform will escort Walsh to the podium and a graduating senior already enlisted in the Army will present him with his honorary diploma.

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