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ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) – A 98-year-old World War II veteran, Harold Williams, received his high school diploma – several decades after what would have been his senior year. The upstate New York nonagenarian’s story caught the attention of a teacher, who asked his students to write to Williams.

“He had to drop out of high school, unfortunately, so that he could support his family during the rough times and the early parts before joining the army,” explained David DeSorbo, an English teacher at Cohoes High School.

Williams joined the service in 1942. He become a technician and played a role of many World War II operations, such as the D-Day invasion and the Battle of the Bulge.

After learning that Williams was finally going to receive his high school diploma, DeSorbo gave his students an assignment to write letters of not only congratulations, but thanks to the local veteran for his service.

“They were amazed at the fact that someone willingly had given of himself and made that sacrifice and they were just in awe,” explained DeSorbo. “Many of them had said to me, I don’t know if I would have ever been able to do that.”

For the Cohoes students, this was so much more than just a writing assignment, it was a lesson in humility and integrity.

“I did want them to see that people are able to persevere during difficult times, and to live through the depression and to have do what he had to do in order to support his family, I thought it was important especially for kids today to know, especially with everything going on around us – and what we need to do to keep the wheels turning so to speak.”

DeSorbo said Williams was thrilled that the students took the time to write to him, adding that he was going to save every single letter they had sent him.