99-Year-Old WWII Vet Graduates High School Alongside Great-Granddaughter

At a well-earned graduation ceremony on Saturday, a World War II veteran who was drafted before completing high school walked in front of his great-granddaughter.

Charles Bird, a 99-year-old native of West Virginia, obtained his graduation from Clay County High School under the Operation Recognition Program (ORP).

Veterans of World War II, Korea, or Vietnam who served with honor are eligible to apply for the program, which is administered by the West Virginia Board of Education and the West Virginia Veterans’ Council, to earn their high school degrees.

Bird’s daughter, Donna Salisbury, told that her father still has a great memory and can still clearly recall events from his military career.

“He told me about how hard it was to go to school before school buses were used,” she said. “He had to bum a ride or catch the Greyhound to get the 20-plus miles to the high school.”

“[After being drafted], he was scared,” she continued. “To have never been more than a hundred miles away from home, and now he was headed across the ocean.”

Ashdon’s mother and grandmother, Salisbury, who adopted her, referred to the graduation as “one of the most proud moments of my life.” She revealed that the occasion made Bird feel honored.

99-Year-Old WWII Vet Graduates High School Alongside Great-Granddaughter

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“He never dreamed he would get his diploma,” Salisbury stated.

The pleased daughter further shared that her father has been a United Mine Workers trade union member for eight decades. The group acknowledged him earlier in 2024.

“He was given a pin this year and they had to design and make it because no one else ever made it that long,” she stated. “He worked in the coal mines for 38 years.”

“Very proud” of Bird’s World War II service, Ashdon Salisbury said. The 17-year-old added that it made her classmates laugh.

“My classmates think that is a very cool and unique thing to happen at our graduation,” she stated.

According to her, the 17-year-old intends to pursue an ultrasound technician degree at BridgeValley Community and Technical College. She mentioned how much she admires her grandfather’s work ethic.

“He worked so hard in life and he is the most deserving person to be able to graduate at his age,” Ashdon stated.

“I am honored to play a small role in Mr. Bird’s graduation,” Tanner stated. “He is part of a generation of heroes who fought for my freedom, and I am excited that, through the Operation Recognition Program, we were able to give him what was long overdue.”


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