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Local man gets his diploma four decades after leaving for service

PERU - It's nearly 40 years later than he had originally planned, but Arthur Hart has received his high school diploma.

The West Chazy man and North Country native was recently afforded the opportunity to receive his diploma through "Operation Recognition," a program through the New York State Division of Veterans Affairs.

"I had never heard of it," Hart said of the program, adding he was informed about it recently by a counselor with Veterans Affairs.

The program is designed to honor people like Hart, who left their pursuit of a high school education to fight in the Armed Forces. In Hart's case, the year was 1973. It was a turbulent time for the nation when many young men were being drafted to fight in the Vietnam War. He was only 17 years old when he decided to voluntarily join the U.S. Navy, a year after his brothers Ed and James enlisted.

"I had a draft card, but I wanted to [enlist]," said Hart.

Hart soon found himself attending boot camp in Great Lakes, Ill. Upon completion of his training, Hart was shipped to Baltimore, Md., where he joined his brother aboard the U.S.S. Charleston LKA-113, an amphibious cargo ship based in Norfolk, Va.

Though Hart never saw any combat time, he does recall the only time he felt really nervous during his 11 months and three-day stint in the service being his first overseas training assignment in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"That was pretty scary. It scared me because all you'd see there was water," said Hart. "And, because of where we were."

When his enlistment was up, Hart contemplated remaining in the service, but decided to return to the North Country instead, bringing home with him the National Defense Service Medal for his service. On Aug. 12, 1977, he married his wife, Judy, and, in 1981, their daughter, Jessica, was born.

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