TAMPA, Fla. — Joe Perricone was ready to graduate with his senior class at Hillsborough High School in Tampa.
Then Uncle Sam called.
It was 1943.
“The draft board said you go and serve your country and be a big boy,” says Perricone.
The 95-year-old never got a chance to walk the stage and grab that diploma.
Instead, he left to fight for his country.
This weekend, the World War II veteran will finally realize his graduation dreams 76 years later.
“I never thought I’d get one of these,” says Perricone, holding his graduation tassel.
He was greeted at his old school by Hillsborough High Principal Gary Brady, who gave the alum his cap and gown.
Joe’s grandson, Circuit Court judge Tom Palermo, heard the bittersweet graduation tale many, many times over the years.
Palermo contacted the school and put the graduation plan in motion.
“It means a lot to us that someone we love very much will finally live out his dream,” says Palermo.
The kid from the Class of 1943 will join the Class of 2019 at the Florida State Fairgrounds on Saturday.
Joe has some advice for the teens he will share the stage with.
“Always do the best you can plus 10 percent," said Palermo. "That extra 10 percent will usually help you get over whatever you’re trying to do.”