LANSING, Mich. — A Mid-Michigan veteran is celebrating his high school graduation 45 years after dropping out to join the service.
As the Vietnam War was coming to an end, a Lansing Eastern High School student was beginning his military journey and leaving his classmates behind.
"I ended up in submarine service chasing Russians instead of Viet Cong," said David Dunckel, a retired U.S. Army Commander.
"After my stint in the Navy I ended up going into the Army and the Army National Guard."
While the graduating class of 1975 crossed the stage, Dunckel answered a call of duty to serve the nation.
"My parents both served. My uncles, my grand parents, my brother served in Vietnam and I always knew military service would be a part of my life," Dunckel said.
Although he rose through the ranks and accomplished much, he says one thing was always missing.
"I always regretted not being a high school graduate," Dunckel said.
"I was always a high school drop-out."
But all of that changed Thursday night.
The Lansing School District awarded Dunckel with a diploma from Eastern High School through the Public Act 181, which grants diplomas to qualified military veterans.
"My classmates being here means the work to me," said the retired vet.
"I've been friends with them for many years and gone to reunions, but never really felt like part of the class of '75."
"Real life taught him more than any teacher could of taught him," said his former classmate Dr. Alice Hansens.
"Any project he could have done, any classroom, anything. His real life taught him more."
Dunckel served 26 years in the military.
He's currently a strategy specialist with the Michigan Veteran Affairs Agency.
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