JACKSON, Mich. — A Korean War veteran who dropped out of high school during his junior year in 1952 to join the U.S. Air Force and became a pilot during the war has finally received his high school diploma at age 87.

Ed Sanders was able to get his Jackson High School diploma through a state of Michigan act that allows school boards to award diplomas to veterans who left high school to serve in World War II, the Korean War or Vietnam.

“I never dreamed I would be able to graduate,” Sanders told MLive.com. “I’m so thankful for that.”

When Sanders turned 18 and dropped out of school to join the Air Force, he wanted to be a fighter pilot. He took his first plane ride at the age of 15 when a flight school moved into the Jackson County Airport. The owner allowed him to take free lessons if he worked at the school.

Sanders ended up training to become a B-47 bomber pilot.

“Next thing I knew I was in Korea, wishing I was back in Jackson,” Sanders said.

Sanders served four years on active duty and four years as a reserve officer. He was discharged in 1960 after being stationed throughout the world, from Morocco to Alaska.

He and his wife, Patricia, have three children, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Out of the military, Sanders has worked various factory jobs before retiring from Ann Arbor Tool but hasn’t piloted a plane since his time in the Air Force.

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