Ray Goodall packed his bags and joined the U.S. Navy when he was a lanky lad of 17.
Back in 1953, he turned his back on his high school diploma to serve his country.
After five years, 10 months and 17 days, Goodall was headed back to the Cortez area.
His memories are still vivid of his service time.
I was just a farm boy and hadnt even used a phone before, Goodall says with a chuckle.
He still remembers the first day he strolled onto a massive Navy ship, the first time he worked shore duty, sailing into the Lebanese waters and on the Black Sea. He remembers it all.
His ship was the USS Olmsted, a mammoth vessel that had 1,300 Marines and Navy members aboard.
The Korean War veteran was recently handed some exciting news he is eligible for the Cold War Medal.
I received a letter and that was exciting. Im definitely going to find out more about that, the 76-year-old Goodall says.
The area native says he will always look at his military service as one of the most rewarding and special times of his life.
After leaving the Navy and through the subsequent years, Goodall was tormented by his decision to leave high school early. He never regretted joining the Navy, but rather, he couldnt help but think about the not getting his diploma.
In 2004, that torment vanished when Goodall took part in the Veterans High School Diploma program.
It was very exciting, Goodall says. It was just something I needed to finish.
Even today, Goodall gets a little emotional talking about the ceremony when he received his diploma, 51 years after leaving high school.
I like to finish what I start, he says.
He may not have had a diploma but his high school experience was an immediate asset when he went into the Navy.
I had three years of typing and when they saw that they put me to work, he says with a smile.
He was stationed in Norfolk, Va. and was given a job where he filed and typed reports.
After the service, Goodall says he thought a lot about that missing diploma. He would also think about a couple of teachers that had a profound impact on him at the Arriola school he attended: English teacher Gladys Hart and his teacher/principal Ed Kemper, who Kemper Elementary is named after.
After the service, Goodall got married and had two sons. He and his wife Marion have been married for 52 years.
His oldest son Scott, 48, lives in Cortez and was a member of the National Guard. Steve, 47, is a U.S. Army veteran, who spent eight years in the service and now lives in Las Vegas.
Goodall worked as a construction inspector after leaving the Navy.
Today, Goodall says his military service will always be a great source of pride for him. And he will never forget the day he received his high school diploma 51 years after packing his bags and joining the Navy.