FAIRFIELD (AP) – More than 50 years after leaving high school to serve in World War II, Richard Charity will graduate from high school together with his grandson and namesake, Richard Charity III.

“I would have graduated in 1943 the year I got drafted,” the elder Charity said Monday. “I got my draft notice. They picked me. They said ‘I want you,’ and I was gone.”

By the time Lawrence High School held its commencement ceremonies in June 1943, the United States was deep into war on two fronts and Richard Charity Sr. was on his way to Fort Benning, Ga., for basic training.

From there his outfit, Company B, 326th Glider Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army’s 13th Airborne Division went to Europe.

He returned in April 1946, got married and raised three children. He now has seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

One of those grandchildren, Richard Charity III, is a graduating member of the Lawrence High School Class of 2003.

Grandfather and grandson will receive their diplomas on Friday thanks to legislation passed two years ago in Maine making veterans who missed graduation because of military service in World War II or Korea eligible to graduate.

Richard III, known as Rick, is 18 and played basketball for the Lawrence Bulldogs. He is headed to the University of Connecticut to study pharmacology in the fall.

Richard Sr., known as Chick, is now 77 and in a wheelchair, but that’s not slowing him down.

How does the old soldier feel about finally getting his high school diploma with his grandson?

“I never imagined it,” he said. “I know I’ll break down, hopefully not too bad, anyway.”

AP-ES-06-03-03 1650EDT

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