99-Year-Old Pastor And WWII Veteran Finally Gets The Diploma He’d Been Longing For Since 1948

99-year-old World War II veteran and pastor Dr. Jack Hetzel
99-year-old World War II veteran and pastor Dr. Jack Hetzel |

A war veteran and church pastor in Texas finally received his high school diploma after desiring to have such for more than seven decades, a year before he becomes a centenarian.

In Resolution No. 553, adopted by the state senate on Memorial Day, Sen. Bryan Hughes commended Dr. Jack Hetzel for receiving his diploma at the age of 99, KETK reported.

"At an age when most people slow down and look back, Dr. Jack Hetzel set a challenging new goal for himself and achieved it, and his determination and lifelong passion for knowledge serve to inspire all those who are fortunate enough to know him," part of the resolution states.

Dr. Hetzel is a pastor at First United Methodist Church. He had served in the World War II, fighting in Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. He dropped out of school on his third grade. In 1948, he earned a GED but had always wanted to get a high school diploma.

On May 28, he joined the graduating class of Big Sandy High School and was honored during the ceremony.

Hughes explained the reason of honoring the pastor through his resolution.

"Getting his high school diploma at his age and his background, with all he's accomplished in life especially on this Memorial Day weekend, it seemed appropriate to give him special honors," he said.

"We're proud of him. He's someone that I represent, so I'm glad to brag about him and tell the story. It was fun for us," the state senator further stated.

The minister shared that to have lived his long life and having Jesus Christ are enough for him "to be blessed."

"99 years of age, that's something to be blessed about. I know my [L]ord and [S]avior Jesus Christ, that's enough to be blessed about. How much more do I need?" Dr. Hetzel declared.

The pastor is also an author who has written eight books.

In 2017, Dr. Hetzel attended the event, "East Texas Salute," where he remembered one of his assignments as an Army Air Corpsman. He told his story about dropping a bomb, destroying a bridge to slow down the enemy. The interval was brief when it happened.

"One minute. This is why I like to be on time with everything that I do," he said.

 In the 2019 article by the Statesman, Dr. Hetzel also mentioned about his experience during the war in Normandy, serving as a pilot. He shared that the sky was filled with military aircraft that even the sun could not shine through.

History says that the Battle of Normandy, also known as D-Day, liberated Western Europe from the grip of Nazi Germany and caused the end of war in Europe. Bearing the code name "Operation Overlord," the Allied Forces launched a surprise attack at the coastal region of France in June 6, 1944. About 156,000 American, Canadian and British forces landed on five beaches of Normandy. The battle lasted for more than two months. By spring of that year, the Allies finally defeated the Germans.