COAL TOWNSHIP - Joseph Shepos was 17 years old in 1943 when he quit Shamokin High School to join the U.S. Navy during World War II.

He served honorably and has long since made a career for himself, raised a family and retired from construction work, but he never had a chance to get a high school diploma - until now.

Shepos, 88, will receive an honorary diploma today during Shamokin Area High School's senior awards ceremony.

"I feel great. I never expected to hear anything," he said of his daughter's work to arrange the diploma with the school district.

Like James Madara in 2011, Shepos will receive a diploma from Shamokin Area thanks to state legislation that honors veterans who left school early to enlist in the military.

Born in 1925, Shepos is a son of Andrew and Stella Shepos. He lived on Kase Street at the top of Bunker Hill in Shamokin before his family moved to Paxinos.

World War II was underway when Shepos went to the American Legion Building in downtown Shamokin to enlist in the U.S. Navy. He attended boot camp at Sampson, N.Y.

"I was only a kid, but I learned one thing: to obey my officers," Shepos said.

He later graduated from radio school in Bedford, returning home for 15 days to marry his high school sweetheart, Anna, in St. Joseph Church. They'll celebrate a 70th anniversary June 17.

Shepos served aboard LST-803 in the Asiatic-Pacific theater.

The ship logged about 33,000 miles during Shepos' time on board, traveling from island to island. He was aboard during the occupation of Okinawa, Japan.

"That's when the atom bomb was dropped," Shepos said. "If it wouldn't have happened, then a lot of us wouldn't be here today because that was the next plan, invading Japan."

Shepos was honorably discharged in 1945 as a radioman second class. He earned the American Theatre Ribbon, Victory Medal, Philippine Liberation Ribbon, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon and one star.

He later worked for Reading Railroad and eventually took a job in construction with the state, from which he retired. He and his wife have five children, 11 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. They live in Colonial Park, near Harrisburg.