HORSEHEADS, N.Y. (WENY) – A special ceremony was held Thursday afternoon at the American Legion for a veteran who dedicated his life to serve our country as a United States Marine. The ceremony made for a day he would never never forget.

“I've tried to go back to school a few times to get a diploma but never managed to,” said Larry Ballance, Vietnam War Veteran.

Ballance dropped out of high school to serve and Thursday, a surprise ceremony honored him with a high school diploma.

“That means a lot, I was shocked,” Ballance said with tears in his eyes.

Ballance believed he was going to the American Legion to take a family photo not knowing his sister was the one who arranged the surprise. A special cake made in his honor was donated by Jubilee Foods as well as a visit from the Elmira City School District superintendent to help present the Diploma.

“It's such an honor to be able to participate in an event like this and honor those who have served our country and such a pleasure to see that feeling of completion for them,” said Hillary Austin, Superintendent of Elmira City School District.

Joe Sullivan, Director of Post 442 at the American Legion in Horseheads previously helped other veterans receive their diplomas after dropping out of school to serve. Currently he's trying to help as many veterans from World War II, the Korean and Vietnam War receive their high school diplomas if they didn't get the chance.

“It's really something special for them, and they're getting up there in age, it's the least that we can do for these guys. You see how it makes not only them feel but their entire family,” said Sullivan.