Devin Stark, 19, right, shares a moment with his great-grandfather George Hulka, 100, at the Wesley Community Center on Tuesday in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Hulka never graduated from high school because he left for World War II. He will graduate from Schuylerville High School on Saturday. (Lori Van Buren / AP)
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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — A 100-year-old Army veteran of World War II is finally getting his high school diploma — as is his great-grandson.
George Hulka Jr. made it to eighth grade at a one-room schoolhouse and worked on his family’s dairy farm in the upstate New York town of Saratoga before being drafted ahead of the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941.
He went on to fight as a rifleman from North Africa to Germany, receiving a Bronze Star and several other medals.
But he never finished school.
On Saturday, 19-year-old Devin Stark will pick up his great-grandfather’s diploma at graduation ceremonies in the Schuylerville School District. New York allows World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans who lived in the state but didn’t graduate to get diplomas.
In 1941, Hulka heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor while driving from Fort Bragg to his home, where he arrived to learn he had been called back to join the 9th Division, nicknamed the “Old Reliables.”
He saw action in Algeria-French Morocco and Tunisia campaigns and Sicily and landed on Utah Beach on D-Day.
“It was hell,” Hulka told the Times Union of Albany. “I got out of a landing craft and ran like hell, ducking and jumping over bodies and all the things that go with war.”
Hulka fought through northern France, the Ardennes, central Europe and the Rhineland. He had malaria and lost some hearing when a bomb exploded nearby.
Hulka said he will put his new, framed diploma on a wall in his home.
His great-grandson lives on farmland where Hulka grew up and is proud to be part of the special graduation.
“He’s a very amazing man for what he did,” Stark said.