‘I’m A Patriot’

Vietnam Veteran Receives High School Diploma

Above, Timothy Pickett received a Jamestown High School diploma after quitting school 50 ago years to join the United States Marine Corps. Pictured from left are Eva Pickett, Timothy's mother; Timothy Pickett, John Pickett, Timothy's son; and Paula Pickett, Timothy's wife. Below, from left are Timothy Pickett and Bret Apthorpe, Jamestown Public Schools superintendent, as Pickett received his diploma. P-J photos by Jordan W. Patterson

Fifty years after quitting high school to become a Marine, Timothy Pickett officially received his diploma.

“Fifty years ago and a few months I quit,” Pickett said. “I did quit because I wanted to join the military because I’m a patriot – always have been and always will be.”

At a Jamestown Public Schools Board of Education meeting, Pickett, joined by his wife Paula Pickett, mother Eva Pickett and son John Pickett, Paul Abbott, board president, announced his accomplishment through Operation Recognition. The program honors veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam by granting them with high school diplomas.

Pickett opened the letter that informed him of the honor just two weeks ago. He said he was hesitant to call the school district because he was in shock.

“I don’t know what to say except, of course, thank you from the bottom of my heart,” Pickett said to Jamestown board members and administrators Wednesday night.

Pickett joined the ranks of the the United States Marine Corps in the fall of 1968 during his senior year. He would have, if he hadn’t joined the military, graduated with the Jamestown High School Class of 1969, who will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this summer.

Pickett served in the Marines from 1968 to 1975, with one year being spent in Vietnam. He reached the rank of sergeant in the 1st Marine Air Wing.

Pickett recalled the exact day on Oct. 28, 1968 when his parents had to sign paperwork allowing their then 17-year-old son to join the Marines. But for him, while admitting it may have been difficult for his parents, he believed in what he was doing.

“I wanted to join to help our military because of the way they were treated after the 60s. It wasn’t pretty. We were scoffed at. We were stoned. We were spit on. I didn’t like our military (being) treated like that,” Pickett said. “I wanted to join those ranks at that time because it meant something to me to be for my country.”

Later, Pickett joined the United States National Guard where he served from 1979 to 1990.

During his time in the National Guard, he assisted New York state during the prison guard strike in 1979 in Auburn.

To describe his time in Vietnam and in the Auburn prison, he simply said “it was an experience.”

Pickett earned his GED during his time in the military and later attended Jamestown Community College. He earned his associate degree in science and continued his education at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse. He transferred to the institution’s Ranger school where he earned a forestry degree.

Pickett also worked as an animal control officer for the Jamestown Police Department for 23 years.

While earning a college education and earning a GED, Pickett said he always felt awkward not having a diploma, specifically when he attended class reunions.

“Now I can go as an official graduate,” he told The Post-Journal.

Although Pickett found success after leaving high school and never receiving a diploma until Wednesday, his message to students was “don’t quit.”

“If you have to quit, make sure you have a goal in mind,” he said. “Do something with your life.”

Pickett thanked the board for the “wonderful honor,” mingled with administrators and left the school with his family – this time as a Jamestown alumnus.