The arena was full of bright-eyed graduates June 6, decked out in their caps and gowns.
Proud parents looked on as Stanton College Preparatory School's class of 2014 walked out to the center of the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.
The hopes and dreams of bright futures for their children filled their eyes.
Edwin Jones' parents never got that chance.
But his brothers and sisters were on-hand as their brother would finally get his Stanton diploma 47 years later.
"He volunteered to go into the Army in 1966 and shipped off to boot camp," Jones' sister Patricia said. "He thought he would have the chance to graduate high school, but that wasn't the case."
While other students were preparing for final exams, he was slogging through the jungles of Vietnam.
"He was a giving individual," she said. "When every kid his age was being drafted into service, he felt that it was his duty to volunteer."
He arrived in country on Valentines Day, 1967 with the 1st Batallion 22nd Infantry Regiment 4th Infantry Division.
On March 3, A co. was moving through dense vegetation when the unit began taking sniper fire. Mortars began to rain down as the unit confronted a force of North Vietnamese regulars.
Jones killed one of the snipers.
"A short time later, Pfc. Jones again disregarded his own safety, in order to evacuate two comrades who had been wounded, before he sought protection from the mortar rounds," Col. Judson Miller wrote on his Bronze Star citation. "When the enemy sniper fire increased in intensity, Pfc. Jones once more exposed himself and advanced on the sniper positions."
This time, however, Jones wouldn't make it. He died that day, just 25 days before his 19th birthday.
His body was brought back to Jacksonville and buried at Mount Olive Cemetery.
"Eddie's" death was a heavy blow for Patricia and the family.
"He was a good-hearted person and a loving person," she said. "Although I was the youngest of eight children, he was so kind and so loving."
Friday, his name was announced before any other graduate.
"His dedication and tremendous sacrifice and demonstration of patriotism made it possible for Floridians and all Americans to continue their education in a safe and wonderful environment," Pam Stewart, the state education commissioner said in a statement.
The crowd stood and gave rocous applause
For Patricia, the recognition of her brother, 'Eddie's', sacrifice meant something.
"It's an honor for us to be receiving the diploma 47 years after his death, but better late than never," she said. "This was really a wonderful thing for them to do."
The diploma was the work of the Duval County School Board and Veterans High School Diploma Program, established to get diplomas for veterans who left school to serve in a time of war.