Louis Picariello left Needham High School in March 1944 after joining the Marines, but never returned to graduate
Advertisement

A 95-year-old man who served in World War II got to celebrate Veteran's Day in the best way this year: by finally getting his high school diploma.

Louis Picariello was incredibly emotional as he received his diploma from Needham High School on Wednesday, nearly eight decades after he left to fight for his country, ABC affiliate WCVB reported.

"I can't believe this," Picariello said, according to the outlet. "Everybody went out of their way and I appreciate it."

Picariello had just turned 18 in March 1944 when he left Needham High a few months before graduation to join the Marines, WCVB reported.

While in the service, Picariello worked as a heavy equipment operator, per the outlet. He later welcomed a large family, including three children, eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

But despite all of those accomplishments, Picariello felt he was still missing a major one: earning his high school diploma.

"It's been a bucket list item, most recently in the last few years," his son, Michael, told independent Boston channel WHDH.

Wanting to make it happen, Picariello's friends at the local VFW recently reached out to Needham Public Schools and asked if getting his diploma would still be a possibility, according to WCVB.

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

The district instantly agreed — and on Wednesday, just one day before Veteran's Day and on the 246th anniversary of the Marine Corps being founded, it finally happened.

In a moving ceremony at Needham High, which was attended by Picariello's friends and family, Superintendent Daniel Gutekanst and Principal Aaron Sicotte presented him with his diploma, per the outlet.

"We're really honored that 77 years later, Louis... we can present you with a lifetime learning diploma," Gutekanst said, according to WCVB. "Representing not only your time at Needham High School, but a life well lived with an amazing family and, obviously, so many friends and colleagues."

RELATED VIDEO: Meet 94-Year-Old Who Finally Received Her Highschool Diploma, Becoming Schools Oldest Graduate

Picariello's longtime friend, Albert Mercuri, was also in attendance on Wednesday and couldn't have been happier for his pal, according to WCVB.

"I'm proud of him," said Mercuri, an Army veteran who became separated from Picariello during the war but later reunited. "We grew up together, we're both 95-years-old."

With his diploma now in his possession, Picariello said he plans to frame it so he'll be able to see it every day, according to WHDH. He also joked that he's now focused on the next step of his educational journey.

"Will it get me into some college now?" he quipped to WHDH.