Midland Valley High Students Honored By Visit With World War II, D-Day Veteran
Each year on June 6, the nation pauses to honor the many sacrifices and acts of heroism which took place during the D-Day invasion of Normandy in 1944, a military action that paved the way for the liberation of France and the eventual end of World War II in Europe on May 8, 1945. However, hearing about D-Day from a veteran who was there is a special treat any day of the year.
Karen Fiery, a Read 180 teacher at Midland Valley High School, posted a message to Facebook in September: “Know anyone who was at Normandy on D-Day?” The request was no small ask — according to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana, there may be fewer than 1000 surviving veterans who were present during the 1944 invasion.
Fortunately, Ms. Fiery kept searching, and eventually she asked the right person — Rebecca Dover. Ms. Dover, who is also an Aiken County Read 180 Teacher, is the proud granddaughter-in-law of Sergeant Major Jim Dover, a decorated D-Day Veteran. Read 180 is a program created by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt that works with striving readers to build their literacy skills, and at Midland Valley High over 100 students are served through the Read 180 program.
Ms. Fiery’s students were completing a unit on the D-Day invasion. They studied various D-Day topics, including paratroopers, minority soldiers who served during World War II, the trauma of landing at Omaha Beach, underwater fuel pipelines, tanks, and more.
“Their interest in talking to a D-Day survivor grew each day, and we were so fortunate Ms. Dover’s grandfather happened to be nearby and willing to talk to our students,” stated Ms. Fiery.
Sergeant Major Dover served as an Army Paratrooper in the elite 101st Airborne. He met with Midland Valley Read 180 students, NJROTC cadets, and Advanced Placement students in November to talk about his service in three different wars — World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. In addition to speaking about his Silver Star medal and six Purple Hearts, Sergeant Major Dover shared his memories of liberating the concentration camp at Dachau, and how he slept the first night after D-Day.
“Listening to him made me want to learn more about World War II and the Holocaust. Because I have so many more questions now,” commented Blake Stringer, a Midland Valley freshman.
Sergeant Major Dover also spoke about his emotional story of losing 12 comrades on D-Day. While he suffers from PTSD due to his time in combat, Sergeant Major Dover shared that most of his flashbacks are from his time served during World War II.
“His salute (to us) at the end of his presentation was really inspiring,” added Jazmyne Vera, a freshman at Midland Valley, “You could tell he has a lot of respect for the military and the role it plays in our country.”
Sergeant Major Dover proudly told students he served, “28 years, 4 months, and 6 days,” and completed 29 total jumps as a paratrooper.
For any students who are considering military service, Sergeant Major Dover advised them to “be sincere — don’t go in just for the benefits. If you’re going in, go in meaning business. We went because we were needed, we thought we were needed, and I believe we were.”
“This is a great example of the strength of Aiken County teachers and their commitment to work together to bring opportunities to our students,” stated Midland Valley Assistant Principal Brad Watson. “We are grateful to Sergeant Major Dover for spending time with us at Midland Valley and being willing to answer our students’ questions. It was a once in a lifetime experience, and it was put into action by two teachers working together to bring the best to our students.”
LINK TO DISTRICT PRESS RELEASE: 2020 PR D-DAY SPECIAL GUEST