Steelton soldier killed in Vietnam receives high school diploma

It may not be the end of the school year, but this is a high school graduation.

It’s only for one person.

“It’s amazing to see my brother finally get his diploma,” Tracie Garnett said. “It’s just amazing and overwhelming and so appreciated for him to have this kind of treatment.”

Tracie’s brother, Reuben Louis Garnett Jr., died in 1966. The Army soldier was killed in Vietnam after saving a fellow soldier’s life. He then went back to save another.

“Reuben’s good friend Lt. Goodwin went down,” said Joe Ulrich with Operation Recognition, “Reuben went in to get him, threw him over his shoulder, and didn’t make it out. He was shot.”

Tracie was very young when her brother died, but she still remembers him fondly.

“My brother was amazing,” she said, “He was a nice, funny, sweet, kind guy. We miss him so much.”

Reuben dropped out of Steel-High High School at the age of 17 to join the Army. Now, more than 50 years later, an honor long overdue. Reuben’s four sisters were there to hear their brother’s name called.

This is the second Operation Recognition diploma ceremony at Steel-High. For Ulrich, this one was very special.

“When you make the accomplishments that Reuben made while in the Army and you have that one thing behind you that you didn’t accomplish, that’s what makes it important now to get this diploma,” he said.

Students also created a special tile to be placed in the school’s hallway so everyone will remember the name of this American hero.

“Everybody at Steel-High, everybody that put this program together, it was an honor and I’m so grateful for everything they’ve done,” Tracie said.

The family says the ceremony gave them a sense of closure. The Garnett sisters are all graduates of Steel-High. Now, after all these years, so is their brother.

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