BRIDGEPORT - Edward Arden Gould made a life-changing decision back in 1962. One that he regrets to this day.
He was a junior at Bridgeport High School, but decided to drop out of school to enter the United States Marine Corps and fight in the Vietnam War.
"Now that I look back on it, joining the corps was a good idea. Quitting school was a bad idea," the 67-year-old told students, parents, faculty and fellow veterans during a Veteran's Day Assembly Friday morning in the Bridgeport school's cafetorium.
T-L Photo/KIM NORTH
FORMER BRIDGEPORT High School student Edward Arden Gould, left, finally received his diploma Friday after 50 years. He dropped out of school in 1962 to enter the United States Marine Corps. Presenting the diploma during the school’s Veterans Day Assembly was Bridgeport Exempted Village School District Board of Education President Don Cash.
"Throughout my entire life, it (the decision) has left me with an emptiness ... a void ... something that I knew I missed.
That something was his high school diploma.
Fifty years later, Gould was finally handed that precious document during the program by Bridgeport Exempted Village School District Board of Education President Don Cash.
"I can't express how much this means to me. I really appreciate the veterans program, the school board and Mr. Zitzelsberger for allowing me the opportunity to have something that kind of completes my life. Something that I regretted.
"Life is full of decisions," Gould continued. "Many of those decisions are later met with regret. I joined the Marine Corps and served my country. That is one decision I don't regret. I still carry a lot of pride for having served in the Marine Corps."
"If there is ever anyone that is considering dropping out of school, I just highly recommend that they don't," he added. "If they do, it will be a decision like mine that they will regret 50 years later."
High school principal Rob Zitzelsberger served as emcee of the 45-minute assembly. He introduced Gould and said he should have been part of the 1963 graduating class. He also noted that Gould's diploma had a sketching of the old Bridgeport High School.
"Bridgeport has a great deal of wonderful traditions, one of which I consider to be is the photographs of the graduating classes that hang in the hallways. My mother is on that wall. My uncles. My brothers. My sister. My son. And, very soon, I'm going to have a grandson that will have his picture on that wall.
"I regret that my picture is not up there with them."
The assembly included a handful of students who related their experiences with family members who are, or have been, in the military.
They included sixth-grader Robert Mullen who presented veteran Ron Salvador with a book of thank you notes. Seventh-grader MacKenzie Hammer offered "Dear Veterans," while eighth-grader Morgan Eddy delivered a speech entitled "What Does Veterans Day Mean to Me?"
High school speakers and their topics included Kara McFarland ("The Heroes Among Us"); Shelby Toson ("What Makes a Veteran?"); and Taylor East ("America's Heroes").
The high school band provided musical entertainment, while the Bridgeport girls' ensemble sang the Star Spangles Banner. A huge video screen showed a 3-minute Veteran's Day tribute. The background music was from Billy Ray Cyrus's hit song "Some Gave All."
The event was capped by a rendition of Taps played by Taylor Kies.
"This is really for the individual," Superintendent Ted Downing noted. "He knows what he missed out on and he wanted to fill that void in his life.
"We're proud of him and we're proud of our veterans. I've got a son-in-law who has been to Iraq three times. My father was in the Air Force and my brother served. I also have a nephew in the service now, so it's important that we honor and take care of our veterans."
Other veterans taking part in the assembly included Ted Ehni (Air Force); George Geer (Marines); Bob Nagy (Army); Gary Vinka (Army); Ron Salvador (Army); Emil Halloy (Navy); Frank McConnaughy (Marines); Loyal Springer (Army); Henry Wood (Navy); and Ed Stachyra (Army).
North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org