Louisiana veteran receives his long-awaited diploma

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NATCHITOCHES, La. (KTAL) – More than 50 years after leaving a local college, a Vietnam veteran is receiving his diploma.

This ceremony marked a major milestone for a life that was already marked by milestones and he got to enjoy it with his family in an unique way.

Robert “Johnny” Hays left Northwestern State University in Natchitoches in 1966 to serve in the Navy. His daughter found out he still qualified to receive his Associate’s Degree in General Studies through the national iniative, Project Win-Win. So after all these years, he got his cap and gown to receive his long-awaited diploma.

“It’s surreal. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to be doing this. It’s something that dreams are made of,” Hays said.

To top it off, Hays is graduating at the same time as his grandson, Colby Cranford.

“It’s very interesting to say the least. We never thought we would have the opportunity to do this and people typically don’t. So it’s a blessing to be able to do this together,” Cranford said.

Hays had a fulfilling career in the Navy and was recruited for the Navy’s nuclear power program.

“One of the toughest courses I think you could go through other than SEAL training,” Hays said.

He later went to work for General Motors where he retired. 

He said if anyone thinks it’s too late in life to graduate: 

“I’d say go for it,” Hays said.

Hays said he wants to travel more, since his grandson graduated with a degree in Hospitality Management and Tourism.

To read more about Hays time in the Navy click here. 

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Aaron Nolan is a morning show co-host in Little Rock, Arkansas with Nexstar Media Group's KARK-TV. He has a passion for social media and makes it an important part of his daily routine. Click here to read Aaron's full bio.