Clay County Board of Education President Phoebe Nichols, World War II Veteran Charles Bird and Clay County Superintendent Phil Dobbins pose for a photo with Bird’s high school diploma.

Student hugging her great-grandfather

Clay, W.Va. – Students, faculty and staff from Clay County High School joined military veterans today to celebrate an honor that has been decades in the making. Ninety-nine-year-old World War II (WWII) Veteran Charles “Birdie” Edward Bird received his high school diploma from Clay County Schools Superintendent Phil Dobbins and Clay County Board of Education President Phoebe Nichols during an assembly at the school.

The celebration was possible through the Operation Recognition Program (ORP), a jointly administered program between the West Virginia Board of Education (WVBE) and the West Virginia Veterans’ Council. The program provides an opportunity for veterans with honorable service in WWII, the Korean War or the Vietnam Conflict to receive their school diploma.

“The service of our veterans deserves the utmost respect and consideration,” said State Superintendent of Schools Michele L. Blatt. “We are grateful for Mr. Bird’s service and sacrifice and for the vision of the West Virginia Board of Education in making this program possible. Working with Clay County Schools and the West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance, we were able to spend the day celebrating a noble and great American.”

Bird served in the 131st AAA Gun Battalion of the U.S. Army as a Technician Fifth Grade (WWII equivalent of Corporal) until 1946. He is one of four remaining WWII veterans in Clay County.

“It was an honor to be recognized today at Clay County High School. Being the oldest member of the graduating class of 2024 is special. It means even more to graduate high school with my great-granddaughter,” said Bird. “I’m thankful that Clay County Schools recognizes veterans for their military service, but I’m especially thankful that the school system took time to recognize me today.”

Mr. Bird hopes to cross Clay County High School’s graduation stage on May 18, 2024, with his great-granddaughter.

For media inquiries, contact Christy Day, West Virginia Department of Education Office of Communications, at 304-558-2699 or

Learn more about the ORP by visiting the WVDE website.

Photos from the event can be viewed by visiting the WVDE’s Flickr album.


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