Vet still finds reason to get Gateway diploma, fulfill parents' dream

| Wednesday, March 13, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

A Monroeville man is proud he received his high school diploma even if it was more than 40 years late.

Robert W. Arbster, 61, received the diploma from Gateway High School on Feb. 26.

He didn't graduate with his class because he went to Vietnam, where he was deployed in 1970.

“I wanted to get this for my parents,” Arbster said about obtaining his high school diploma.

“I didn't get to fulfill that dream while they were alive, but I fulfilled it.”

Arbster served in the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment as a truck driver.

He was honorably discharged, and he recently found out he could receive his high school diploma through a state program.

Operation Recognition is a program through the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs that allows school officials to grant a high school diploma to veterans who left school to serve in World War II, the Korean War or the Vietnam War.

About a month after inquiring about the program, Arbster got a call that he was eligible to receive his diploma.

Gateway High School Principal William Short presented the diploma to him during a school board meeting.

“Back in the '60s, it was every parent's dream to have their children receive a high school education and diploma,” Arbster said.

“Today, everyone assumes that you'll go to high school and go to college.”

That isn't to say Arbster doesn't have a history of which to be proud.

He was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal for supporting the unit for driving a large number of miles over hazardous roads in June of 1971, while he was in Vietnam for 10 months.

“What I remember most is the camaraderie in Vietnam,” Arbster said.

“I've never been able to achieve that again.”

He received a General Educational Development diploma and an associate's degree from the Community College of Allegheny County in administration of criminal justice and worked at Forbes Regional Hospital in Monroeville for 29 years as a security supervisor.

Arbster now works at the University of Pittsburgh as a security guard.

Jacquie Harris is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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