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Overdue honor

Guilderland veteran receives his high school diploma 50 years later

Robert Lynch stands outside his Guilderland home holding the high school diploma he was awarded by Guilderland Central School District through Operation Recognition.

Robert Lynch stands outside his Guilderland home holding the high school diploma he was awarded by Guilderland Central School District through Operation Recognition. Photo by John Purcell.

— “One of the greatest things I do as a high school principal is to watch our students graduate and walk across the stage, and I really didn’t think there was much else that could surpass that,” Lutsic said, “but tonight is such an event.”

Board of Education President Colleen O’Connell thanked Lynch for his service.

“It seems to me quite fitting that the day after Memorial Day we are honoring and recognizing Mr. Robert Lynch for his service to our country,” O’Connell said. “Your efforts kept all of us present free.”

Lynch served from December of 1966 to November 1968, after being drafted shortly after getting married. He said he didn’t serve in the “backwoods” of Vietnam, and recalled going into town one night with his friend.

“We were in downtown of one of the cities and a Vietnamese kid came around the corner and threw a grenade at a friend of mine,” he said.

Lynch’s friend quickly reached for his service revolver and shot the child, who Lynch estimated was around 8 or 9. The child didn’t die from the shot, he said.

Lynch recalled having rockets shot at him by the Viet Cong during the Tet Offensive.

“In Vietnam, no matter where you were, the communists came out and shot rockets at you and tried to dislodge people from living there,” he said.

After the meeting, Lynch clarified he didn’t leave school to enter the service, but was actually kicked out from school after pulling a prank on the principal.

Lynch said the school’s principal disciplined a friend, so they decided to get even with him. This retribution involved placing the principal’s Volkswagen on the school’s roof using wood boards to roll it up using a pulley system. The school was located in Albany on Elm Street.

He earned his GED after leaving high school, but still yearned for his diploma all these years later. The state requirements allow for the diploma to be awarded even if qualified veterans have earned their GED.

For several years, Lynch kept in touch with a few people he served with, but over time he lost touch with some. Fifty-eight thousand American soldiers serving in Vietnam never made it home.

“I do know a few people from Albany that were drafted when I was and a couple of them never came home,” he said.

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