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"I've been pretty blessed, pretty honored and everything."

Melvin Page didn't walk with his graduating class back in 1966. Instead, he was drafted into the Army. He served in Vietnam where he earned the rank of platoon sergeant.

Thanks changes in state legislation for Vietnam, Korean, and World War II veterans, Page was eligible to receive his diploma.

"They got in touch with me and I went over there and filled out the forms and everything. Not really thinking too much about it. Well it's an opportunity, I might get it. I might not," he said.

And at the Roane County School Board's latest meeting, Page and fellow Harriman veteran Chester Edwards finally received their diplomas.

After serving, Page worked as a letter carrier for 30 years and retired in 2002. Watching him walk, you wouldn't know he's had numerous surgeries resulting from combat, including cancer from Agent Orange and a metal rod in his leg.

"For a big man, I can move. I actually had a teenager telling me here a while back he says, 'you're awful fast for a fat man' of course I ran him down," Page said laughing.

Page was wounded in combat and almost lost his life when his unit was ambushed. He received serious burns from napalm.

"They didn't even think I was an American soldier. They just pulled out a body bag, picked me up, and threw me in it. They were fixing to zip me up and the good Lord above helped me move my arm and my move hand and show them I was still alive," explained Page.

Page earned his GED with the help of the GI Bill. He says this recognition is a sharp turn from the way Vietnam vets have been treated in the past.

"It was a different war. World War I, World War II everyone came home together. Korea, Vietnam everybody came home separate. When I came home the first time in San Francisco, there was just me and these two Marines left the hospital over there. We had some hippies spit on us. Of course, they regretted that. I won't go into details, but they regretted spitting on us," said Page.

For current soldiers and returning vets, Page has one last bit of advice.

"I encourage any soldier coming back, any veteran coming back to take advantage of that GI Bill. Get your education, it's worth it."

For more information on helping veterans get their diplomas head to:

http://www.tn.gov/veteran/state_benifits/vet_diplomas.shtml

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