Vietnam vet can finally call himself a West Branch graduate 54 years later

Local News

Robert McLaughlin only needed one more credit to graduate high school in the '60s, but he was drafted

BELOIT, Ohio (WKBN) – Most people get a high school diploma when they’re 17 or 18 years old and most jobs require you to have one. A West Branch veteran was one credit short of getting his — until Tuesday night.

Fifty-four years is a long time to wait on anything but the West Branch School District was determined to make things right for the man who served our country.

Robert McLaughlin is a father, grandfather and great-grandfather. He served in the U.S. Army for three years and is a Vietnam veteran.

But there’s always been one thing he’s never done. He was supposed to graduate in 1965.

“I was one credit shy of graduation and I was going to come back and get my diploma,” McLaughlin said.

He only needed an American Government class to graduate.

But he was drafted in October of that year.

Since then, not having a diploma is something that’s troubled him for half a century.

“I guess you would say you’re just incomplete because all your friends graduated and you didn’t,” McLaughlin said.

With a little help from friends and a few phone calls, West Branch Superintendent Timothy Saxton presented him with his diploma.

“Confirmed that he was honorably discharged. He did fall into the category of our board policy that we could honor him with a diploma,” Saxton said.

The superintendent has done similar things for veterans in the past.

“We’ve worked to get diplomas into the hands of World War II veterans, some Korean conflict veterans and, obviously, some Vietnam conflict veterans,” Saxton said.

Because of Saxton’s previous experience with this, he was able to get everything done in less than a week.

All he needed was a vote from the school board — and everyone voted yes.

McLaughlin said now he feels complete and even though he’d gotten his GED, the diploma is special to him.

“The diploma says you’ve finished your work.”

Finally, McLaughlin can call himself a graduate of West Branch High School.

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