Vincent J. Arpa, US Navy

Interview with Vincent J. Arpa, US Navy

Name: Vincent J. Arpa

Military Branch & Rank: US Navy, Lieutenant

Dates of Service: 1965 – 1973

Villanova Degree: B.S., Electrical Engineering, 1965

Date of Interview: April 29, 2019

Interviewer: Michael D. Brown

Audio Producer: Laura Bang

Length of Interview: 43 minutes

Transcribed by: Nicholas Coscarelli

Edited and annotated by: Meg Piorko

URL for Audio:



MICHAEL BROWN (INTRO): Thank you for joining us today. My name is Michael Brown and we’re here today at Villanova University, recording another installment of the Voices of Villanova’s Veterans.

BROWN: Welcome to another segment of the Voices of Villanova’s Veterans. Today is April 29th of 2019. We are here at Villanova University, and I am joined today by a Naval veteran by the name of:


BROWN: Vince is here with us, and he is a proud Villanovan as well. Thanks for joining us today, Vince. Are you ready to get the conversation started?

ARPA: I am, Michael.

BROWN: Great. Well, thanks for joining us. If you could just start the conversation by telling us where you were born and when.

ARPA: I was born in 1943, in Philadelphia. I’m a city boy. We lived in rowhomes in West Philadelphia. It was a predominately Italian-immigrant neighborhood. My four grandparents were Italian immigrants; they did not speak any English. So, my parents would be considered I guess first-generation American. And I was destined, from a very early age, to go to Villanova and to go into the Navy. Everything started coming together when I was a child. My mother’s brother – and she dotted on her brother; he was the prized family member because he was the first to go to college. And, of course, the college was Villanova College at the time. He graduated in 1952. Uncle John was my idol, truly. He took me to my first Villanova football game, which was played at Shibe Park, which became Connie Mack Stadium, which eventually become the “Vet,[1]” which is now Citizens Bank Park. And he was my idol; he really was. And he went to Villanova; he was NROTC, and he got commissioned and he was an Officer in the Navy during the Korean War. He was my idol; he went to Villanova and was in the Navy. Coincidentally, my father was in the Navy during World War II. And I tell you this because it’ll come up a little bit later in the interview: I was six months old before my father saw me. And I was the first born. I went to high school for one year in Philadelphia, St. Thomas More Boys Catholic High School, on 47th and Wyalusing. I took the 15 trolley everyday back and forth to school. My kids today don’t know what a trolley is, and they’ve never been on one; but I’ve never been on a school bus. My entire life, I’ve never ridden a school bus. My family moved out of the city when I was fourteen.

BROWN: What year is this?

ARPA: It would’ve been 1958.


ARPA: We moved out of the city, and I continued high school from my sophomore year on at Monsignor Bonner High School – which happens to be, or was at the time, an Augustine high school. So, now we’re bringing Villanova, and the Augustinians, in with this. When I was in West Philadelphia, I went to parochial school and was an altar boy – they call them “alter server” now; I was an altar boy. And I coincidentally got the 12:15 mass every Sunday and we had a visiting priest there. The visiting priest was an Augustinian, Father […][2] I didn’t know a lot about Augustinians and the different orders of priesthood, but he was a very nice man and I remember telling him that I would like to go to Villanova. And he said, “When you go to Villanova, look me up because I live there.” So, here I went to an Augustinian high school, applied to Villanova – didn’t apply anywhere else – applied to Villanova and I got in. And the first think I did was look for someone by the name of Father John Cernan; he was Vice President of Financial Affairs at Villanova at the time. And we became very good friends, and he kept an eye on me. He insisted every time I got my grades I had to go into his office and show him. His office was on the first floor of Tolentine Hall. Everybody who knows Villanova knows where Tolentine Hall is. And that was Father John Cernan, and he kept an eye on me; he was a great guy. He’s no longer with us; I really appreciated knowing him. I graduated from Villanova in 1965 with a degree in Electrical Engineering.

BROWN: At this point you’re just an engineering student and you’re not associated with the Naval ROTC?

ARPA: I’m not associated with the ROTC program at the time, that is correct.

BROWN: So, what was the life like at Villanova during your time here? What were the classes like? Were the programs small? Huge? What were your professors like? What was the student body like? Talk to me a little bit about Villanova during those times.

ARPA: From my perspective, my first semester in engineering, I carried 22 credits. I thought that was normal. I thought that was normal, 22 credits. Second semester was only 21 credits. They were cramming five years into four years back then. So, we didn’t have a lot of time to do very much other than to study and go to class. Lots of labs, lots of classes. But by today’s comparison, as an electrical engineer, I learned about amplifiers with vacuum tubes. 1965 is when I graduated. I got involved; I was Blue Key. We were the ones that gave tours around the campus at the time. I loved that. I was Chairman of Homecoming Weekend, that was kind of fun. I was Chairman of Junior Mother’s Day, the mass, and the planting of the tree. I don’t know if they still do that at Villanova.

BROWN: Yeah, I’m not sure.

ARPA: I don’t know, but it was something that you did. And I sat at the main table with my mother, and I still have that photo and that was one of the photos that she cherished the most. She was at Villanova with her son, the same school that her brother went to. So, here we are, Villanovans. At the time, the Vietnam War was really hitting up: 1965 is when I graduated, and school was great. We spent all our spare time in the pie shop. Now for those that do know what the pie shop was. What’s it called now? Connelly? No, it’s across from Connelly. So, I think it’s –

BROWN: Dougherty?

ARPA: Dougherty Hall, that’s it. But we didn’t call it Dougherty. We called it “the pie shop.”

BROWN: Why was it called “the pie shop?”

ARPA: I think that was all they had at point in time, and they were noted for their pies. Everybody used to go into the pie shop to get pies. Something hysterical happened to me in 1963. I was also a disk jockey on the radio station.

BROWN: You were definitely busy around campus.

ARPA: I was busy. So, the second floor of the pie shop was where the radio station was. And I had a Monday night show that I did, but we had teletypes: Associated Press was one of them I remembered. So, all the news came across on the teletype. There were no emails or anything like that. No faxing, and that thing just chattered all the time. But now when something important came on, a bell would ring, because it was an open line. Everybody was putting news out on the teletype, and it just clattered all the time. All of a sudden, I’m up there reading the news and it starts going: “[making ringing sound] Get off! Important message!” And then whatever the news was started coming again, and it would go, “[making ringing sound] Get off! Get off! Important message!”  What’s going on? I look at it and it says: “President Kennedy has just been assassinated in Dallas.” I always remember that day. I went downstairs to the pie shop; they had the TVs off and everybody was making noise and I went up the counter and I said, “Turn the TVs on.” They said, “We can’t.” I said, “Turn the TVs on. The president’s just been assassinated.” So, they turned the TVs and I yelled, “Be quiet!” And everybody was quiet, and we just watched the news. One of the things when I was here that I will remember, when it happened. Now, I had a lab that afternoon. Mr. Adams. And I went to the lab, and I said, “Mr. Adams, you have to cancel class.” He said, “Why?” I said, “Our president was just assassinated.” He said, “It’ll be here after lab.” It’ll be here after lab, OK. So, we had lab and we’re back to life as normal – although life wasn’t really back to normal after that. Years and years later, I came to a reunion and Mr. Adams was there. I went up to him and I said, “Mr. Adams, you probably don’t remember me; I’m Vince Arpa.” He said, “I remember you. You’re the one who told me John Kennedy was assassinated.” We all know where we were on 9/11, and we know where we were – if you were around – when President Kennedy was shot.

BROWN: What kind of radio show did you host?

ARPA: I played jazz – jazz music. It was a three-hour show and it only broadcasted far enough to be within the campus, and I think the far ends of campus may not have even gotten it. But it was – I can’t even remember the call letters, but I will as we talk. I’ll probably remember them. But yeah, I had a three-hour show and I played jazz. I just fell in love with jazz back then and that was just the music I played. It was fun; you had the turntables, and you did what jockeys do. And the turntables are spinning, and you’re holding your finger on it, and it’s all queued up, and it starts, and you flip the switch. It was pretty cool.

BROWN: Yeah. So, it’s 1965. You graduate. You have your degree.

ARPA: I have my degree.

BROWN: Obviously Vietnam is really hot and heavy at this point.

ARPA: Oh, very hot.

BROWN: Are you thinking to yourself: “I’m going to get drafted” or “I’m going to pursue a career.” What are your thoughts at this point?

ARPA: “I’m getting drafted.” I know I’m getting drafted, but I got a job. My job was with IBM. I don’t remember when, but not that long after I started work with IBM, I got a notice from my draft board saying “Come see us. You have to take the physical.” So, I went. The draft board was on 69th street, just outside the city. I drove down, went in; they gave me a token. What a token is: it allowed you to get on the bus, the subway, the trolleys. They were little disks, little metal tokens. Smaller than the token you just gave me. But I went up to 401 North Broad, at the time that was a military installation, and I took the physical. Passed with flying colors. I went back to the draft board and gave them the piece of paper that was signed and said I passed. I said, “Before I leave, if I’m going to be drafted, can you give me an idea of when?” She said, “What’s your last name?” I said Arpa. She put head down, looked, and said, “About two weeks.” I decided to enlist in the Navy, and that’s how I got into the Navy.

BROWN: So, avoid the draft, not go to Canada, and join the Navy [laughs].

ARPA: Oh, I wasn’t going to Canada, was not going to Canada. I was much too patriotic to go to Canada. A lot of people did, though.

BROWN: Absolutely.

ARPA: You brought it up; a lot of people did go to Canada. I wonder how many people came back. But yeah, went into the Navy. I went into a program that was a Reserve program. What it was, was two years active duty, six years reserve. But I had to wait until I got orders because I had to go to bootcamp. So, I got orders, went to bootcamp – Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Waukegan, Illinois – in February and March, very—

BROWN: Lovely that time of year.

ARPA: Lovely, absolutely lovely. I got a dose of the Navy as an enlisted man. I came back and had to wait again for orders to go on active duty. While I waited for orders, I was on temporary duty at the Navy yard on a small ship, a very small ship. And I didn’t like shipboard life with two stripes on my shoulder, as a seaman apprentice. So, I went to the nearest Navy recruiting office and said, “I want to go to OCS.[3]” They said, “Take the test.” Now, this was one of the fun stories. They sent me back to 501 North Broad, right, to take the test and get a physical again. I came back with my chit and handed it to the officer, and I flunked the eye test. He said, “You can’t go to OCS. You flunked the eye test.” I said, “Seriously?” He said, “Look, go back. Here.” He gave me another tug and said, “Go back up there, go take the test over.” So, I walk in, and there’s a corpsman waiting for me: “Arpa?” “Yes.” “Sit down.” He’s filling it out for me while I’m doing the eye test again and he said, “Here, you passed.” I took it back down, gave it to the officer, next thing you know I went to OCS and got my commission. I went to OCS, got my commission in 1967, August of 1967. I was commissioned and inducted into the Navy.

BROWN: Talk to me about the difference between Great Lakes, basic training, and OCS.

ARPA: Rhode Island is beautiful. Waukegan, Illinois is not beautiful [laughs]. Newport, Rhode Island is absolutely beautiful; it’s a beautiful place. The training: not a lot different. It was still bootcamp all over again. It was four months of bootcamp. The good thing about bootcamp is that you graduate each month, so you get a little respect as a third versus a first class. Then you graduate and get commission.

BROWN: Sure.

ARPA: Now the funny thing is my mother is a very demanding individual. One time, when I was at Villanova, I got all A’s and a B which gave me like a, I don’t know, a 3.8 cumulative for the semester. The first thing my mother said was, “What’s with the B?” She wanted all A’s. Oh, mom. Taking this back to my graduation when I got commission. There are a dozen guys on the stage and I’m with the rest of the guys, right? As soon as I got my commission, my mother said, “Why weren’t you up on the stage?” I said, “Mom, congratulations, I’m in the United States Navy, c’mon.” She was very demanding. I loved what I did, and I loved wearing the uniform. However, I thought I was going to be on a ship. The Navy found out I work for IBM before I came in with OCS. They were in desperate need of what they call “computer types,” “data processing types.” We call them IT today. Desperate for them.  So, they stuck me in the Bureau of Naval Personnel in D.C., Arlington, VA. I was responsible for doing all kinds of data manipulation, data collection, for just about anything you could imagine. I was absolutely bored to death. So, I went to my commanding officer who was a Commander – I won’t say his name – and I said I’m bored. Next thing I know I got orders to go on […][4] [laughs]. I was not bored there, though I was doing the same thing. However, it was more interesting because we collected data for everything you could imagine. Everything from black market control to where B52 bombs were dropped, and what would happen after the bombs were dropped. Where the attacks were, where the rockets were coming from, where rockets were hitting – Chinese rockets – everything. And we massaged that data and there was a Monday morning review with General Abrams. Now, I was stationed at what was called MAC-V headquarters. MAC-V was Military Assistant Command- Vietnam.

BROWN: Where was this at?

ARPA: It was Tan Son Nhut Air Base, which is outside of Saigon. Saigon at the time, Ho Chi Minh City now. And there was a Monday morning briefing where General Abrahams and his staff – mostly Stars, Generals from the different countries supporting us. Vietnam, of course, South Korea, the Thais were there, other countries. The Australians were there. So, there was a big briefing, and I was a junior office, so I had to escort my colonel – an Army colonel, because the Army was in charge of Vietnam. But MAC-V was in joint-command. So, I’d walk over with him to the balcony and sit with him to keep him company while they presented our results. We used to plot the results on a big plotter. The results were on a piece of paper the size of a pool table. That’s how big the plotter was, and it showed him the outline of the country and, in the country, where the B-15 raids were and where the troop movements were as a result of that. Those were the types of things we collected data on and then processed based on that. But we also did black market control, that was the fun part. The war was hardly fun, but catching guys who were AWOL[5] in country was. The way we caught them was everybody in country got a MAC-V card, which is like a credit card, and whenever you bought anything, it had your social security number on it, which was your ID over there, and it was embossed. So, in the old days, when you did a transaction with a credit card, they put a card down, they put the card under it, and then the put the ticket – that’s what we called it – down and then they’d zip-cross it so it’d emboss into the cardboard, which was a computer-readable card. And what they did at the PX[6] because we had PXs, but we also had banks that we went to on base and all. They would dial in the amount of your purchase, and they’d zip it; and the card came to us, so we were collecting all this data and we were publishing reports. Well, the guy who was at the top of the report has over $200,000 in purchases and he was AWOL somewhere in country. So, we’d send this report out—

BROWN: [laughs] What kind of purchases was he making?

ARPA: Oh, everything: cameras, refrigerators, everything that you can use and the PX can sell and use in the economy to get things. I mean, for instance, in Vietnam the most popular commercial products were Salem cigarettes, because the Vietnamese people loved methanol cigarettes, and cognac because the French influence was still very strong in Vietnam especially Saigon. General Ho Chi Minh chased the French out, but now the Americans were in there. I don’t think the Americans were liked anymore than the French were liked. But we used to joke and say that the French taught the Vietnamese people how to do two things: bake bread and how to pee in the streets. And, also, people were living on the economy by buying cameras at the PX or buying cognac at the PX and selling it on the black market for Vietnamese money and they were living like kings. So, we published this list, and the list went around every week to different PXs and to different banks. When someone would come in to make a transaction, they’d look down on the list to see if he was there. If they found them – of course they spoke Vietnamese – they would say, “Call the MPs.[7] Well, we caught the #2 guy in country while I was in country.

BROWN: How many were typically on there? Were there a bunch of people on the list?

ARPA: Oh, yeah. There had to be a hundred on the list. I mean, but the list had everybody on it but we cut it off at a certain level to publish it. I mean, I was on the list because I purchased in the PX, but it wasn’t enough to get onto the published list. One thing I did do when I was in Vietnam – it’s very interesting. The Vietnamese people are really wonderful people; they are, and the country is a beautiful country. It was a really a shame that there was a war there at the time, and I understood the war – I mean, two different political factions. Actually, the Catholics wanting the South and the Communists wanted the North. And while I was there, I decided I wanted to learn Vietnamese because every cafeteria was Vietnamese women behind the counter serving us. When you go to – I lived at a BOQ, Bachelor Officers’ Quarters.[8] And at the BOQ, we had a cafeteria. We called it a restaurant; it was a little stepped up. It had a little nightclub there and there was a top floor. So, we’d go up there every night and we’d eat and drink; we’d play dice and listen to Filipino bands. The girls would wait on us and I always wanted to know what they were saying. So, a handful of us hired a Vietnamese language teacher and at lunch he’d come in. Well, when you live in a country, it’s easier to learn. And what he taught us was expressions. Expressions like “bao nhieu” which is “how much?” And “mac qua” which is “too much.” Two very important things to learn when you’re in a foreign country because you’re taxi cabs or cycles – motorcycles with the little bench in front of them. And I learned how to speak Vietnamese and I remember when I was learning, went up stairs and met the guy, sat at the same table every night, and the waitress came over and said the same thing she said every night which was “gi.” And “gi” is a very demeaning way of saying, “What do you want?” Very demeaning. So, I stopped her, and I said, “Co. Dung nhieu lam ong muon gi. Excuse me, sir. What would you like?” [laughs] she walked away and served another table.

BROWN: [laughs] she didn’t take too kindly that you –

ARPA: She didn’t take too kindly that I corrected her. But I did learn how to speak Vietnamese and met a lot of friends that way.

BROWN: So, growing up you said that your parents didn’t speak lick of English—

ARPA: My grandparents didn’t.

BROWN: Your grandparents. So, did you learn Italian?


BROWN: So, at this point just English and Vietnamese.

ARPA: English and Vietnamese. They tried to teach me French in high school, but that didn’t work. The reason why was that my parents didn’t want us to learn Italian because of the immigrant stigma at the time.

BROWN: Sure.

ARPA: And they went through it, as Latinos go through it here. It seems like everybody – well, the Irish did too. They spoke English, but if they didn’t want you to know what they were saying they would make sure they spoke in Gallic or something. But they absolutely didn’t want us to learn Italian.

BROWN: So, sorry to interrupt your –

ARPA: No, no, go ahead.

BROWN: What year is this now?

ARPA: I was in Vietnam from the summer of ’69 to the summer of ’70, so one year. A little short of a year, because at that time they were kicking us out. In 1969, President Nixon really was trying to wind this down.

BROWN: Talk to me about the people you served with, the climates, the food in your typical diets. What was going on in your year in Vietnam?

ARPA: If you’re close to Saigon, you take advantage of the local restaurants, especially if you can speak Vietnamese. There’s a Chinese section, Cholon, you’d go to Chinese restaurants, and you’d get real Chinese food. If you go to Vietnamese restaurants, you’d get real Vietnamese food. And you’d go to French restaurants, and they’d serve French food. You ate well, you did. I’d be careful because things did happen in the streets. So, you have to be very careful.

BROWN: What kinds of things?

ARPA: Guns fired, some intentionally, some by accident. On the streets of Saigon, every block, every street had a station where they had Vietnamese soldiers with M-16 riffles, and they would stop anything – a cab, a motorcycle – and it was always random. If they saw packages, they would stop them with a whistle. And if they didn’t stop, the shoot off would burst. And if you’re in a cab or a cycle, and your driver doesn’t stop when you hear M-16 rifles go off, you’re going to yell at your cab driver for not stopping. So, you have to be careful. There were also a lot of thieves; they would knock you down and steal from you. You always traveled in a group in the military. It’s an interesting place to be, it really was. If you learned Vietnamese, you got a glimpse of what you weren’t supposed to know and that helped a lot. I made a lot of friends that invited me to dinner in their homes, which were no bigger than – I’ll tell you: you could probably fit three or four houses in your library. They were shacks on dirt. But the people were nice; they were very cordial. And they always appreciated that I learned the language and they called me friend. And I appreciate that too. But it was still away from home; we didn’t have the internet or phones. We didn’t have skype.

BROWN: Did you communicate with your family back home? Did you write letters often?

ARPA: Tapes. But the first letter I got when I was in Vietnam – because my wife at the time and I got married while I was station in D.C. My wife was pregnant, and she knew the moment I got on the plane, but she didn’t want to tell me. First letter I got said “I’m pregnant.” And I was like, “What am I doing here?” When I said to you that I was six months old before my father saw me, my son, Vince, was three months old before I saw him. I was in the Navy, so history kind of repeats itself. The way I found it was through the Red Cross and that’s how things happened back then. My wife, when Vince was born, contacted the Red Cross, the Red Cross went through finding where I was and then contacted me. So, I found out the day after he was born that he was born. And I was a father; a son named Vince.

BROWN: So, you’re still in country when all this happened?

ARPA: I’m still in country.

BROWN: What were you thinking about when you heard about it?

ARPA: Why am I here and not home?

BROWN: How soon do you get home? You haven’t seen him for three months.

ARPA: I didn’t see him for about six months. Is that right? He was three months old – I can’t do the math right now in my head – he was three months old so whatever it was. I did see my wife in Hawaii; she was six months pregnant, and I got early R&R,[9] so I could fly to Hawaii. Before I got on the plane, I was wearing civilian clothes. Back then, you didn’t travel in uniform because of the way that people treated us. We were not liked. If you were in the military in Vietnam, you were not liked. Not home, not anywhere. So, you didn’t travel in uniform; you traveled in civilian clothes. So, we got a briefing before we got on the plane. The briefing basically said you have to come back. Ok? That was pretty much the briefing. So, it’s time to board and there is a lieutenant, and I was lieutenant JG; we were the same rank, and he was giving out boarding passes. So, he calls my name, I walk up to get a boarding pass. He goes, “Woah. Arpa? Sideburns a little long there.” I said, “These are Navy rank.” He goes, “I’m in the Army.” I said, “Seriously?” He said, “Seriously.” Alright. “I want to know where your commanding officer is.” And he told me where he was. I would never get on the plane to find his commanding officer, and I wouldn’t know what I’d do if I found him. So, I turned around and said, “Anybody got a razor?” Went in the head and got them chopped off, got up there and he said “better.” I said, “By the way, when I get back, I want to know your date and rank because I’m coming after you.” I never came after him; I didn’t care. I just got on the plane and did R&R and came back.

BROWN: That’s good. You saw your wife. What was Hawaii like?

ARPA: It was beautiful.

BROWN: Did you want to stay there and not come back?

ARPA: Of course [laughs]. Absolutely. But you know what, in all honesty, I say that because you’re torn. You know that what you’re doing is your duty and I was in the military. I absolutely believed everything. I believed in chain of command; I believed in taking orders. I run my own business right now; I started my own business. I learned a lot in the military. One of the things that I learned was something called transparency. When you are either a senior enlisted or you are an officer, if you’re given a command that involves people that you command, you don’t say, “So and so told me to tell you that you have to do this.” You set that command; it’s your command. You go and you say, “From now on, you will do this this way.” You’re not transparent. Very, very important both in the military and in business. And I tried to teach that to anybody who works for me. You own it. As soon as you get it, you own it. I didn’t believe very strongly in the military, so coming back there was no choice.

BROWN: Sure.

ARPA: I knew I was coming back.

BROWN: You come back and how much time do you have left in Vietnam?

ARPA: I think probably three months, something came. No, it had to be a little bit longer than that because he was three months old. She was six months pregnant, so I had six months to go yet.

BROWN: A long six months of your life.

ARPA: Yes and no. Yeah, something like that.

BROWN: Were you hoping time would move a little bit faster?

ARPA: I was. I was. I get pretty used to it after a while; you’re used to where you are. We had a couple of B-52 pilots, majors in the Air Force, that sat at our table every night. And what they used to do sometimes, they would say, “northeast sky, 2AM, 0-200.” So, we’d go up on the roof in the middle of the night and watch the fireworks because what he was telling us was in that direction, B-52s are going to lay down what they lay down.

BROWN: Interesting.

ARPA: So, we’d go up and we’d watch the fireworks.

BROWN: When you look back on your time in Vietnam, you spent a year there. What are your thoughts? How would you summarize it? Are you proud of it?

ARPA: Absolutely. Proud of it. I take every opportunity when I have to let someone know I am a Vietnam vet. It kept me from getting a ticket once. I went through a red light, but the police officer was right there, and he pulled me over. “Sir, you went through the red light.” “Yeah, I know I did.” “Why’d you go through the red light?” “I timed it wrong.” I went through the red light. Asked for my license, registration, and all. There’s a little flag if you have a PA license.

BROWN: It’s on mine.

ARPA: Says “veteran,” and he looked at it and said, “You’re in the service?” I said I was. “What service were you in?” I said the United States Navy, and I am a Vietnam veteran. He said, “excuse me one second, Mr. Arpa.” He goes in the back, and he comes back, hands me a warning, and he says, “Watch the red lights.” I said, “thanks very much.”

BROWN: That’s good. So, you’re proud of your service in Vietnam?

ARPA: Absolutely, very much.

BROWN: Now you’re coming home and get to see your wife, see your kid.

ARPA: Yes.

BROWN: But what’s next?

ARPA: Exactly. What’s next? Back to work for IBM, he didn’t want me back because he didn’t have the head count. And the law said that you have to take me back. So, he had to take me back, so I had a job. And I think about that a lot, Michael, because I think about the service personnel to come back now from wherever – Afghanistan, the ones who came back from Iraq – they come back, what the come back to. You know whether they can find a job or not find a job, what their conditions are, what they went through over there. I was lucky in that I did not go through jungle combat, and I always thought about those that did and what they came back to. I had a job, and I was very grateful for having a job. I stayed in the reserves; I made lieutenant and before I actually got released from duty, released from the reserve commitment, and I stayed at IBM. I had two more children while I was there. So, I had three. And left IBM because they wanted to promote me and send me to Dallas; I know nobody from Dallas. But I just didn’t want to go to Dallas.

BROWN: Alright, fair enough.

ARPA: I went through a divorce and remarried.

BROWN: She wanted to go to Dallas?

ARPA: She didn’t even want to go to Pittsburgh when IBM wanted to send me to Pittsburgh. She said, “I’m not leaving.” She was from south Jersey. She was a south Jersey girl. We’re friends today, very good friends as a matter of fact. But no, she did not want to leave Jersey. She’s a south Jersey girl. So, no, we divorced, three children and I remarried. I left IBM, started a business, remarried, and had a surprise. My second wife got pregnant, and we didn’t expect to get pregnant. His name is Michael, by the way.

BROWN: Oh, it’s a good name.

ARPA: It is a very good name. Michael, I called the gift I didn’t deserve, and he was truly. And he truly is. Michael went to Villanova. He graduated from Villanova in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He was NROTC, got accepted to flight school, and a month before graduation, he got a medical discharge. They found something and they discharged him; it broke his heart, and I talked him into staying at Villanova, getting his master’s degree. So, he got his master’s degree in mechanical engineering. He now works for the Navy; he’s a Navy employee in Portsmouth, VA, and he’s a nuclear engineer. And he still wants to go into the Navy. He’s got two more years to be clear and then he can apply again and he’s going to try to get a direct commission into the Navy. And that’s part of the Navy story and that was Michael and he’s a graduate. My first son, Vince, went to Villanova. We’re a legacy family and we’re also a Navy family.

BROWN: Sounds like you’re very proud of your Villanova ties, your Navy ties.

ARPA: Very much.

BROWN: When you think about that, tell me a little bit about how your mom wanted you to go to Villanova because your uncle and now your kids are going to Villanova because of you.

ARPA: No pressure. None whatsoever. My daughter went to Loyola. My other son went to Elizabethtown College in Lancaster County because he was a baseball player, and they had a great baseball team. No, everybody walks their own path and that was never – there was never an issue.

BROWN: Sure. But it sounds like you’re – you know, you have very strong feelings for Villanova. I think you’re on the engineering board. So, tell me a little bit about what Villanova means to you.

ARPA: Right now, I’m on the governing board of the entrepreneur program the engineering school has. It’s a great program and I love being a part of it. It gives me the opportunity to work with the students, with the kids. I appreciate and enjoy that more than anything. Working with the kids here, the students here. In that entrepreneurship program, it always amazes how smart these kids are. They really are. I hold season tickets to basketball. I have since when I got back from Vietnam and got my feet on the ground again. And since the Pavilion was built, I’ve had these tickets and I still have the tickets now. So, Villanova basketball – college basketball – I love it. Our football team was never all that good and didn’t get a lot of support. I tried to go when I can. I did go to the Liberty Bowl once. Villanova had – Philadelphia had the Liberty Bowl, and it was held at, I can’t remember. It was JFK Stadium, but before that it was Municipal stadium – that’s what it was. And it seemed like 103,000 people in like, a big bowl. And a very nasty winter day. They had the Liberty Bowl there and Villanova lost to Oregon State. Terry – gosh, I wish I could remember his name. He was the Heisman Trophy winner at the time. We lost 6-nothing. Nobody could see the field; it was covered with snow. But yes, Villanova means a lot to me. I like being here. The store, the bookstore before I came up here to buy some things. Yes, I’m a Villanovan.

BROWN: Well, good. It’s been good to have you here. Do you have anything that you’d like to add to your story before we go part ways?

ARPA: No, I just – it’s really tough to get into Villanova right now. I’ve got grandchildren; I have nine grandchildren. I’ve already heard more than one of them say they want to go to Villanova, and I counsel them. I say, “You know what, while college isn’t necessary for everybody, Villanova is not necessary for everybody, if you really want to go there then do your best, get good grades, get involved in school. They want to see more than just grades. They want to see your activities, what you participate in; they want to see a well-rounded individual. Do that. Make sure you have some other schools because it can be difficult getting into Villanova and it’s a great school.”

BROWN: And what about doing the military? Do you advise folks to do that?

ARPA: I think the military is a good choice; it’s not a good choice for everybody, but I think it’s a good choice for more people than not. I’m one of those that loves to see women in the military. I read an article in the paper about women that are volunteer firefighters that responded to a high school emergency and the only ones that showed up at the firehouse were the two women. And both hopped in the truck to the scene and did what they had to do. So, at Villanova too, I encourage – we only have 30 percent women in the engineering school. Fifty-two percent were admitted in the university, so I encourage to try to get involved and have more women look at and take STEM courses in high school. If you want to get into Villanova, be an engineer because the engineering school is really looking for women, so that’s a good way to get into Villanova, I think. Plus, it’s a great education.

BROWN: Well, good, Vince, I appreciate you coming out here today and telling your story. I think there’s value and maybe some of your grandkids can someday listen to this story and be proud of their grandfather like you’re proud of them.

ARPA: It was fun. Thank you, Michael. I really appreciate the time.

BROWN: Thank you very much. That wraps up our conversation today and we’ll talk to you soon.

ARPA: Thanks.

BROWN (OUTRO): That concludes this installment of the Voices of Villanova’s Veterans, a joint project of the Villanova University Office of Veterans and Military Service Members, and Falvey Memorial Library’s Distinctive Collections and Digital Engagement Departments. Thank you for listening. For more information and to listen to more interviews, please visit us online at


[1] Veterans Stadium.

[2] Unknown phrase. Best guess: John Cernan.

[3] “Officer Candidate School.” The U.S. Naval Officer Candidate School provides initial training for officers of the line and select operational staff corps communities in the U.S. Navy.

[4] Inaudible phrase.

[5] AWOL: Absent without Leave.

[6] PX: A store at a military installation that sells merchandise and services to military personnel and authorized civilians.

[7] MP: Military police.

[8] BOQ: Buildings on U.S. Military bases for quartering commissioned officers.

[9] R&R: Rest and Recuperation.

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