PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – He left high school as a sophomore to defend his country, and more than 40 years later, a local marine is finally getting his high school diploma.

It was a big night for Marine master sergeant James Frazier, Jr. Pittsburgh Public Schools honored Frazier with his high school diploma at Wednesday night’s board meeting.

“I think it’s great, makes me feel good to get this diploma, something I’ve always wanted to do,” Frazier said.

In 1973, Frazier left Peabody High School in Pittsburgh for the Marine Corps, but that really wasn’t his original plan.

“A friend of mine who was in high school with me, he wanted to go into the Marine Corps, so he talked me into walking him down to the recruiting office,” he said.

A determined Marine recruiter got a hold of Frazier.

“Since you’re sitting here doing nothing, you might as well take the test just for fun to see how you do,” Frazier said. “So I took the test, [my friend] took the test, and low and behold, he failed, I passed … Next thing I know, I was on a bus to Paris Island.”

Frazier’s mother had to sign for him, since he was just 17 years old at the time.

Frazier didn’t get sent over to Vietnam, since the war there was winding down, but he did serve in Desert Storm and received several promotions along the way in Japan and Cambodia.

He retired from the Marine Corps in 2005 and moved back to the area in 2007. That’s when he got an itch to get his high school diploma.

“I would see Peabody’s building, and that’s when it started hitting me, and that’s when I started having feelings about, y’know, I didn’t graduate with my graduating class and that type of stuff, that’s when it started really bothering me,” Frazier said.

But now, thanks to the efforts of Pittsburgh Public Schools, Frazier has a diploma, and he may never let it go.

“A lot complete, a lot complete, I might not put [the diploma] down the rest of the day,” he said.

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