STRUTHERS, Ohio (WKBN) – For many students, high school graduation is just around the corner, but for many of our nation’s veterans, that milestone is something they never had the chance to experience.
But that all changed Sunday for two local soldiers.
This year, the Struthers High School class of 2016 shared the stage with U.S. Army veteran Robert Wallace and Mary Carcelli, who accepted the diploma on behalf of her late father, Robert Shuttleworth, who was also a U.S. Army veteran.
“I was a nervous wreck,” Wallace said. “I never thought I’d experience this, but it’s awesome.”
For the second year, Struthers City Schools, alongside the Struthers Fallen Soldiers Project, has awarded honorary diplomas to veterans who didn’t have the chance to complete high school because they were drafted into war.
“I wish I would have got it a long time ago,” Wallace said. “This is awesome. This is where I started out at, I was born here, so I’ve come back full circle.”
Carcelli said that her father would have also graduated as a Wildcat.
“I’m ecstatic, and you know what, he would be too,” Carcelli said. “He always told my kids, his grand kids, ‘Go and get your diploma. It’s something I always wanted and never had the chance to do.’”
In 2003, a law was passed in Ohio that allows school districts to award diplomas to veterans who joined the armed forces during World War II, the Korean or Vietnam Wars. To qualify, a veteran must be an Ohio resident or previously have been enrolled in an Ohio high school. The veteran must also provide documentation of honorable discharge.
“It’s a great honor for them,” Robert Daley, a member of the Struthers Fallen Soldiers Project said. “It’s more important that they feel the connection with the community, and it’s an opportunity for us to give back, honor them and not forget them for what they have done.”
With Memorial Day right around the corner, this honor is one they will truly never forget.