In 1942, 17 year old Don Miyada, an American of Japanese ancestry and a senior at Newport Harbor High School, was looking forward to his graduation ceremony.
But on December 7th, 1941 Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and Don's life changed abruptly. A day later the U.S. declared war, and in February, 1942 President Roosevelt signed Executive Order No. 9066, authorizing the lockup of nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans.
They were ordered to be bussed to "detention centers" located in distant, inhospitable locations. Given only days to report for lockup many families lost everything they owned.
Don and his family left their Orange County, CA home and along with 17,000 others, were locked up in an Arizona desert detention center, their legal rights swept aside by the stroke of a pen.
During his time in lockup, Don received a letter from one of his teachers, expressing shock for what had happened to him. Also enclosed was Don's high school diploma.
After two years, Don was released and drafted into the U.S. Army to fight in Europe.
Following World War ll, Don enrolled in Michigan State University, where he went on to earn his Doctorate in Chemistry. He later returned to California and became a Chemistry Professor at UC Irvine.
But at age 89 and long retired, Don felt there was a hole in his life from a graduation ceremony he never attended.
Then in May, 2014 he met Sean Boulton, Newport Harbor's current principal, shared his story and was invited by Mr. Boulton to join with the 560 graduating teenagers.
Mr. Boulton also located a copy of the 1942 commencement program.
"My name was on there," Don told the Los Angeles Times. "I wasn't able to attend, of course, but my name was there anyway. It was very emotional."
At the 2014 commencement, as he smiled and bowed his head, Don received a standing ovation.
He then thanked everyone.
"It's their time to graduate and their time of honor," he told the audience. "I'm happy they invited me to be one of them."