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86-year-old Korean War veteran receives high school diploma

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WEST ALLIS, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A veteran of the Korean War walked across the stage Thursday night at a West Allis high school graduation ceremony.

Ron Ziolecki, at 86 years old, received his diploma from James E. Dottke High School after dropping out of his own high school the first time to enlist in the Marines.

Ziolecki says he’s known completing his education was a missing piece of his life ever since he returned from Korea as a 19-year-old.

“It’s one of the things I think is the most important things in life,” he said. “I wrote in my grandpa’s book [to my grandsons] ‘Make sure you boys get an education.’”

Ironically, Ziolecki says he always hated school.

He spent a year fighting in the Korean War.

“What I’ve seen I never want to see again in my life,” Ziolecki said.

When he got back, he got a job. Ziolecki spent 40 years at the Unit Drop Forge in West Allis.

He’s also raised $1 million organizing Candy Cane Lane.

Then his friend Dan Bailey, a board member for the West Allis-West Milwaukee School District, decided to help Ziolecki officially graduate.

“It’s a really good feeling and it warms the heart,” Bailey said. “It’s about all those veterans out there that served us.”

Ziolecki spoke to the Dottke graduates Thursday, urging them to get an education no matter what they do.

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