By CBS3 Staff


PINE HILL, N.J. (CBS) – Students in Overbrook High School’s graduating class of 2019 received their diplomas on Monday night. Among them was one student who would have received his diploma five decades ago, but was fighting in Vietnam instead.

It was an incredible day for the high school students. George Schaefer Jr. was supposed to be here in 1969 but instead was overseas in Vietnam.

“To get to do something that I missed 50 years ago, nobody gets this second chance,” Schaefer said “This is a second chance I never expected it to happen.”

The 67-year-old joined hundreds of ecstatic graduates on the football field at Overbrook High School.

“Mr. Schaefer, let me say here, this evening, ‘Welcome home,'” Principal Adam Lee said.

Credit: CBS3

Getting his diploma was something Schaefer has wanted for years. Lee made that dream come true.

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“It’s the students’ evening, but I wanted the students to see his story because I think they will take that with them for the rest of their lives,” Lee said.

Schaefer’s wife said she couldn’t be more proud.

“To have recognition, to be able to finally just be welcomed, is perfect. It is all perfect,” she said.

“I have feelings inside me that — it’s such a big thing for the Vietnam veterans; when we came back to the states, there was no parade, no parties, no nothing for us. Now, the students, the teachers and the community reaching out to welcome a Vietnam veteran,” Schaefer said.

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On his chest sat the New Jersey Distinguished Service Medal and the state’s Vietnam Service Medal. He says this honor is for all veterans.

“They say there was 300,000 men wounded in Vietnam. No there wasn’t. There was 2.5 million wounded, everyone there was wounded,” Schaefer said. “I don’t have the words to describe how happy we are. It’s a wonderful thing.”

In the Army, Schaefer earned a GED.

CBS3 anchor Jessica Kartalija reports.