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FERRIER FILES: Lebanon veteran gets diploma 60 years later

Nothing gets by mechanic Ken Dillard. Even at 77 years-old, no matter the airplane and well past retirement, he is a treasure at the Lebanon airport

Dillard is a master mechanic who is certified on a host of aircraft. He took care of Ted Turner's personal plane and has met lots of famous people.

Dillard also worked for George Gillette and helped open the now-popular Vail Airport.

But his journey all started with wrong. To show off to a girl, Dillard signed up to join the Navy in 1956, just a junior at Lebanon high school.

He was only 17 and bluffing, but his mom called his bluff.

“If you asked my back then there is no way my mother would sign for me to go in the navy ...no way," Dillard said. "Boy did she surprise me. I was just playing around it was too late. The next thing you know I was shipping out."

This lead to all the aviation adventures as well as meeting Barbara, his wife of 58 years. It was Barbara who realized Ken passed a GED while on the Navy ship in 1957.

She started working to get him his diploma.

With the help of Wilson County Adult High School Principal Mary Ashby and the us navy, the group tracked down the proof. Ken Dillard deserved a diploma.

Under the pretense that Dillard was going to a baby shower, the two went to a surprise graduation ceremony.

Big smiles dissolved into pools of tears.

“He kind of lost it," Barbara Dillard said. "He humbled down. He had to have the tissue and I did too."

“That’s because I never thought this would happen," Ken Dillard said. "Never. It is emotional to talk about right now. I guess I just don’t have words.”

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