WWII veterans get diplomas they sacrificed in their service

May 22, 2010|By KATE S. ALEXANDER
  • Robert "Addie" Allen Goetz

GREENCASTLE, Pa. -- During World War II, a high school diploma could not compare to the call of duty for some young men who left school to answer that call.

More than 60 years later, two area veterans are finally receiving their diplomas.

"It's emotional for me," Robert "Addie" Allen Goetz said. "I don't know if it has been the length of time or what it is, but it gets to me."

Greencastle-Antrim School District presented the veterans with the diplomas both forfeited to go to war.

"This is nice, very nice," said Eugene "Gene" Lewis Angle, who said he was touched by the gesture.

Known as Operation Recognition, the Pennsylvania General Assembly authorizes school boards to grant a diploma, upon request, to any honorably discharged veteran who left high school to serve in the military during World War II between Sept. 14, 1940, and Dec. 31, 1946.

Greencastle awarded its first Operation Recognition diploma in 2008 to Richard Lee "Dick" Robinson of Greencastle, according to District Secretary Debbie Timmons.


The late Robinson enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1944 and served three years in the South Pacific on a survey ship, according to his April 11, 2010, obituary.

Robinson and Angle, 86, received their diplomas at home.

Goetz's award, however, was a bit different, Superintendent Greg Hoover said.

Wearing the ceremonial cap and gown, Goetz, 83, became an alumnus of the school during Thursday's annual awards assembly at Greencastle-Antrim High School.

Students honored the veteran with a standing ovation, Hoover said.

Goetz said he never regretted the decision he made more than 66 years ago.

"Back then, it was the thing to do," Goetz said of enlisting. "I wanted to go into the Navy, and I was afraid if I waited until I was 18 and signed for the draft, I'd end up in the Army."

Goetz left high school during his senior year in January 1944 to follow his dream of being in the Navy. He would have been 17 when he graduated from high school, but Goetz said he never considered waiting.

"I wanted to go in, and I did," he said. "I have no regrets."

Daily death tolls and reports of war did not deter either of the men from serving.

"We knew who the enemy was, unlike the boys and girls going to war today," Goetz said.

"Times were tough," Angle said. "But it was the thing to do."

Angle cut short his junior year to enlist in the Pennsylvania National Guard in 1940.

He spent two years in continuous combat, fighting battles in Italy, France and Germany, according to his son, Lawrence E. Angle of Hagerstown.

Goetz spent his time in the Caribbean, not seeing the enemy until after the surrender, he said.

"I feel a diploma will complete a part of my life that was never completed, the time from my school years to now," he said.

High School Principal Ed Rife had the honor of presenting the men with their diplomas.

"It was a really touching moment when I could give him his diploma and see our students give him a standing ovation," Rife said of Goetz.

Hoover said any veteran who meets the requirements of Operation Recognition is encouraged to contact his office to receive a diploma.

Editor's note: This story was edited May 22, 2010, to correct errors.

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