Most Greensburg Salem High School seniors will receive their diplomas at commencement next month, but Raymond Patrick had waited long enough.
Patrick, 90, received an honorary diploma at the high school academic awards assembly Friday.
“It’s like I’m a slow learner,” the Crabtree resident joked.
Raymond dropped out of high school in 8th grade to help run the family farm while his three older brothers served in World War II.
His brothers John and Jim made it home. His brother Richard was killed two weeks before the war ended.
In 1950 Patrick decided it was time to enlist in the Army himself.
“I was determined I had to go do my job,” he said. “I had to weigh the prospect of going to high school, which was so important, but I thought it was more important to serve my country.”
He had a long and varied career in the military that spanned more than 30 years.
He was a paratrooper in the Korean War. He joined the Special Forces in 1960, and remained in the special forces in the U.S. Army Reserves until 1988.
Outside the military, he worked at a Latrobe steel mill, served as a firefighter in Crabtree, and coached softball.
“He is what I would call one of the pillars of the Crabtree community,” said longtime family friend Susan Stas.
Patrick’s family reached out to the school district to see if he could get a diploma.
“He has served and served and served, and never got that piece of paper,” Stas said.
Greensburg Salem High School Principal David Zilli said Patrick embodies the values of the school district.
“Great citizens like yourself make Greensburg Salem a great place to live, work and learn,” he told Patrick. “Congratulations on your graduation, and I have to ask: when’s the graduation party?”
Although he didn’t finish school, Patrick had no lack of learning experiences, he said.
“The special forces is constant learning… I got an education from them, really,” he said.
He sometimes wonders what he missed by not finishing school, but he thinks he made the right choice.
“I don’t think I lost much,” he said. “I hope I didn’t. I still try to do the best I can; improve society, improve my community, improve my country.”
Peg Patrick, Raymond’s wife, said it means a lot to the family that her husband finally received his diploma.
“It’s overwhelming, in a way,” she said. “It’s a blessing, it’s an honor, and I’m so proud of my husband.”
Raymond Patrick said he was honored to to stand among the students who were being recognized for their academic achievements.
“When I look back at these young people, the future of the United States of America, I say to myself, we’re going to be OK,” he said.
© 2018 Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.)
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