In June 1968, Army Sgt. Arius Paul Trottier received the Army Commendation Medal at a ceremony in Vietnam.
Back home in Scottsdale, Trottier’s family was ecstatic to hear the news, which was published in the Scottsdale Daily Progress.
“It was exciting for his mother. She went out and bought like 100 copies!” Trottier’s wife, Sandra, said with a laugh.
Trottier, who prefers being called Paul, was in the service for eight years, serving a year in Korea before a two-and-a-half-year tour in Vietnam spent in demolitions work and bomb disarmament.
His list of accomplishments runs long, but there was one milestone missing from his life that he finally achieved last week.
Both Sandra and Paul went to Coronado High School, and while Paul received his GED, he never received his high school diploma.
On Sept. 26, Paul and Sandra found themselves back at CHS, in the high school’s auditorium, for the long-awaited moment.
“It’s a pretty big deal. I never thought it would happen,” Paul said. “I did complete my GED while I was in the service, but I thought, ‘Gee, if I can get a high school diploma – the real thing – that’d be great.’”
Many veterans, including Paul, who left high school without graduating, never received their diploma.
However, in 2003, the Washington State Legislature passed three bills to issue high school diplomas to veterans of WWII, Korea and Vietnam for residents of its state. Operation Recognition then took off nationally as individual school districts began awarding high school diplomas to qualifying veterans.
“I’m glad to see our government finally recognizing these veterans, as they should be doing all along,” Sandra said.
When Sandra found out about Operation Recognition, she jumped at the opportunity.
“I asked him, ‘How would you like your diploma?’” Sandra said. “He’s very shy, but I jumped at it.”
To qualify, veterans must have been honorably discharged, scheduled to graduate from high school but left before graduation to serve in the war.
Paul met all requirements.
So, Sandra and Paul submitted the appropriate paperwork to Coronado High, where a staff member told them he was the only veteran who has applied for Operation Recognition there.
“Nobody was aware of it,” Paul said.
The school called Sandra about three weeks later.
“She said, ‘We can mail you the diploma if you’d like,' and I said, ‘Heck no!’” Sandra laughed.
Instead, Paul would take the stage at Coronado High School, a moment he credits Sandra for making happen.
“I owe it all to my wife,” he said.
The diploma coincided with another milestone the couple marked – their 50th wedding anniversary.
“It’s kind of a neat surprise for us,” Sandra said.