SYLVANIA, Ga. -- Peer pressure wasn't a problem for James Livingston, who graduated last week with Screven County High's 2010 senior class.
Livingston, 86, left the school 68 years ago to fight during World War II. He returned last Friday night to fulfill a promise to his mother to complete high school.
Georgia law allows Livingston the opportunity to get his high school diploma. In 1942, he decided to head to Savannah on a school day and enlist. His parents agreed to allow their too-young-to-join son into the military under one stipulation -- he must earn his high school diploma after he got back.
"I've got to do it before I pass away," said a spry Livingston. "It has taken a couple of years to get it. I've been busy," he said with a laugh. "Through the years, I have thought to myself: 'You promised your Momma you would get your diploma,' but I hadn't."
World War II veterans who stopped going to high school to join the war effort and were later honorably discharged may receive high school diplomas.
After all of the younger SCHS graduates were given their diplomas at Kelly Memorial Stadium, it was Livingston's turn to make good on the promise to his mother.
The octogenarian, a WWII spare gunner with the Mighty Eighth Air Force, walked up as SCHS Principal Brett Warren recalled his wartime accomplishments. He received two standing ovations from the crowd and the new Class of 2010 graduates.
As Livingston claimed his honorary diploma, the WWII vet gave a "thumbs up" signal to the crowd and then walked over to be hugged by grandchildren.
Receiving a high school diploma after nearly seven decades is remarkable, but Livingston said he had not planned to tell his family. It is expected to take weeks before the actual diploma would be in his possession since the document had to be ordered by the school.
In the 1940s, the veteran's last full year in high school was attended in Pembroke, but Livingston went
to classes at Screven County High School for two months before he enlisted. Now he resides in Savannah, but Sylvania has a place in his heart.
"I fell in love with Sylvania," Livingston said.
"I've lived in lots of places, but I've always thought the people were nice there," he said.