Honoring a Hero At This Year’s Graduation

This week is graduation at my school. Our band will play Pomp And Circumstance, our graduates will line their way into their seats, and thousands of family and friends will fill our activity center for the special event.
cap and gown photo
But one graduate will stand a part this year. His hair is gray underneath his cap, he will stand tall at 6 foot 3-inches in his red graduation gown. He is 91 years old, and would have graduated from our school in 1943.

Seventy two years ago, William C. Larkin was a high school senior at Skiatook High School when he answered the call to leave his home by volunteering to serve his country during World War II. As a result, he missed his last year of high school.

He exchanged the memories of caps and gowns for a Marine uniform and metal helmet. Instead of classrooms and school activities, he drove tanks and faced combat. From February 19 through March 29 of 1945, he participated in one of the fiercest battles of the War in the Pacific. 26,000 Americans lost their lives in capturing the island of Iwo Jima, and William C. Larkin was there.

Tomorrow night we will have the privilege of honoring him. Married for 69 years, Mr. and Mrs. Larkin live with their family in Claremore, Oklahoma. Earlier this year, Eric Sims, a 1999 graduate from our school, brought Mr. Larkin’s story to our attention, and we were thrilled when Mr. Larking agreed to be honored at this year’s ceremony.

When I address our graduates tomorrow night, I will remind them to not let this lesson go unnoticed. Their procession across the stage will be led by a veteran and hero.

But the reality applies to all of us: All of your achievements in life have really been preceded by faithful people who have served you throughout your life, and even before you were born.

We all owe a debt of gratitude to those who have gone before us and to those who are still here: To our parents and loved ones for their love and support, to our family and friends for the encouragement and cheers, and to our teachers and mentors for their sacrifice and service. And to the unsung heroes whom whom we may have never met before.

Diplomas are a badge of honor for reaching an important milestone in the race of life. But a diploma is also a symbol of the countless investments made by others so that we have the freedom and opportunities we enjoy today.

When Mr. Larkin, 91-year-old veteran and hero, walks across the stage to receive his honorary diploma, I think the message will be clear to all of us: You make the most of your life by giving it back to others.

William C. Larkin’s honor is long over-due, and we are so privileged to be a part of honoring him. Let the lesson be one that helps each of us do work that matters.

Now It’s Your Turn
How can you make the most of your gifts, talents, and skills by giving of yourself to enrich the lives of others today?

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker