By Gabriel Monte: Freedom New Mexico
Howard Vaughn Luckett is different kind of senior than the ones he will graduate with Sunday.
While it took most of Clovis High School’s graduating class of 338 about four years to earn their diplomas, it has taken Luckett more than 60 years.
Luckett, 81, dropped out of high school in 1943 when he was 18 years old to enlist in the U.S. Navy.
Luckett, who now lives in Cloudcroft, is taking advantage of state legislation that allows veterans of World War II and the Korean war to receive their high school diplomas if they dropped out of school to serve during those wars.
Jelayn Curtis of Clovis Municipal Schools said Luckett would have graduated in 1944.
He was discharged honorably from the Navy in 1946.
Veterans have the option of receiving their diplomas in the mail or participating in the commencement ceremony, she said.
“I thought it would be fun,” he said. “Out in Los Angeles there’s people going back to school and graduating and some of them are 80 or 90 years old.”
Luckett, who attended La Casita Elementary School, said the city has stayed the mostly the same.
“But it’s grown a little bit more now,” he said.
Luckett said he enlisted in the military after hearing rumors that the government was instituting a draft for World War II. He said he wanted to choose the service he would join.
“I didn’t want to wash my face and take a bath out of my helmet,” he said referring to war movies about the army life he saw at the Lyceum and Mesa theaters.
He said he served on USS Lexington in the Pacific and was on board when the ship was hit by torpedoes and suicide planes near the Philippines.
“I was pretty nervous over that,” he said.
Since leaving the service, Luckett started as a carpenter’s apprentice and worked in the construction field for more than 50 years building houses and commercial buildings in New Mexico and California, he said.
He said he had tried working on a GED and had gone to college for architecture design and engineering but never finished his studies.
Luckett said he retired from construction in 1990.
After receiving his diploma he said he plans to go to college.
“I feel like I have 10 more years in me so I’m going to try to go back to school for architect design,” he said.