The 1940s were a very different time in the United States.

The opportunities afforded to teenagers today were far less abundant. Many opted to join the military just to have a career plan, while others felt a deeply-rooted patriotism and desire to protect the country. At the age of 16, Ed Hall belonged to the latter group, preferring to serve his beloved country over spending his days in a classroom.

At the time, enlisting in the US Army at 16 was impossible, so Hall simply lied about his age. It was a move that would change his life in ways he could never have expected. He enlisted in 1939. In 1941 he got his first taste of battle.

Ed Hall and Pearl Harbor

Japanese fighter over Oahu, December 7, 1941

Beyond being a distinguished wartime veteran, the 94-year-old is also a survivor of the tragic events of December 7th, 1941 – the morning the Japanese launched a devastating assault on Pearl Harbor.

At 0755 on that quiet Sunday morning, Hall was working in a Pearl Harbor mess hall when sounds of attack erupted outside. It started with an explosion and before he knew it, Hall was dodging incoming bullets, riding in the back of a pickup truck that had been converted into a makeshift ambulance.

He and members of his squad did what they could to help those wounded during the two-hour attack. At 18 years old, Hall saw the effects of war, the gruesome details that the boy who enlisted at 16 likely never expected to see.

Ticking Off the Bucket List

It was a simple item that many Americans had achieved when they were younger, but Hall’s military service impacted his ability to obtain his high school diploma. When he was discharged at the age of 23 in 1946, schools didn’t have adult education or GED programs. Seeing no other recourse, Hall gave up on his dream and lived his life without a diploma under his belt.

Though he did try to obtain his diploma several years later, issues with his application resulted in yet another disappointment. Then, with the help of his friend Bob Taylor, Hall’s graduation was finally approved in September of 2017, though the veteran was ill at the time and unable to receive it.

Finally, on November 6th, 2017, Hall got the long-overdue document, which was presented to him at his own graduation ceremony at the Masonic Memorial Temple in Las Vegas, NV. Accompanied by friends and family, Hall graduated as valedictorian.

Having made the choice to skip high school for the sake of his country, Hall urged those in attendance to stress the importance of education to their children, pegging it as the most valuable thing in the world.

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