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Floyd Nimrod Covey, a former Upshur County resident, receives his high school diploma from Upshur County Schools Superintendent Dr. Sara on July 8, 2019. Covey was drafted to serve in the Vietnam Conflict and was unable to complete high school. / Photo courtesy Upshur County Schools

‘This would mean everything to my mom’: Vietnam veteran receives diploma 60 years after high school graduation

MARTINSBURG – Some people wait their entire lives to have their deepest wishes come true with no luck.

Fortunately, the dream of a U.S. Army Vietnam Veteran and Purple Heart recipient with ties to Buckhannon was recently granted in July when he was 78 years old.

Floyd Nimrod Covey lived in Upshur County and was enrolled in high school when he was drafted to serve his country in the Vietnam War; in fact, while serving his country, he missed his high school graduation.

Covey, who now resides in the Martinsburg VA Medical Center, told some of the staff members he really wished he had graduated high school, saying his mother was disappointed that he never finished high school and received his diploma.

Upshur County Schools Superintendent Dr. Sara Stankus and assistant superintendent Dr. Debra Harrison packed up and traveled to Martinsburg on July 8 to present Covey with his high school diploma and celebrate with those gathered at the VA Center.

“During a time in his life while others were graduating, he was unable to,” Stankus told My Buckhannon when she had returned from the special trip to Martinsburg.

The ceremony was orchestrated by cooperation between VA staff members and Upshur County Schools.

When staff members heard Covey’s story, they stepped in to help him achieve that goal. The West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance has a two-page form to help veterans who served in World War II, the Korean War or the Vietnam Conflict earn their high school diploma.

The application lists three requirements: the applicant must have served in the U.S. Armed Forces between Sept. 16, 1940 and Dec. 31, 1946, June 27, 1950 and Jan. 31, 1955 or between Feb. 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975; they must have been discharged from the Armed Forces under honorable conditions; and they must not have previously received a high school diploma.

West Virginia State Code 18-2-34 provides that veterans who left school prior to their graduation and served in the referenced wars will be awarded their high school diploma in either the county where they currently reside or in the county where the veteran would have originally received his diploma.

So, Covey completed his paperwork and was approved to receive his diploma. Members of the Upshur County School system called Covey and invited him to attend graduation and walk in the May 24 ceremony held at West Virginia Wesleyan College. Covey initially planned to attend the ceremony; however, he had a medical issue that prevented him from attending.

Since Covey could not travel to Buckhannon, Upshur County School personnel traveled to Covey.

Harrison said it was a pleasure to share this milestone with Covey.

“We drove four hours to meet with Covey,” she said. “To see the tears in his eyes and to hear him talk about how he would give anything if his mother could have been there – her dream was that her son would be a high school graduate,” she said.

“This was the best feeling that meant so much for him – finally achieving this milestone,” Harrison added. “He was there in his cap and gown and he was so proud.”

A display of Covey’s medals from his service in the U.S. Army. Covey is a recipient of the Purple Heart. / Photo courtesy of Upshur County Schools

Stankus said the tears just flowed from Covey’s eyes.

The superintendent said she and Harrison felt so blessed to be a part of sharing that moment with Covey.

“When we drove down, we didn’t know how it would be, but the staff made him a cake to celebrate,” Stankus said. “All of the residents on his floor came out to celebrate with him and see him graduate and see him be presented with his diploma. Even the administrator came to share the event.”

Stankus said Covey was presented with a quilt, adding that they are usually patriotic-themed but said his had birds since they’re one of his favorite things.

Harrison said going to Martinsburg and presenting Covey with his high school diploma was “some of the most rewarding time she has spent since taking on her current position.”

Stankus said following the ceremony, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin presented Covey with a Letter of Commendation on his graduation.

Covey’s diploma / Photo courtesy Upshur County Schools

“Covey’s story was also on the Today Show,” she said. “I’m so excited he received his diploma. His social worker printed off all on the comments on his accomplishment from Facebook and shared them with Covey. There were more than 1,000 reactions. It was amazing.”

Covey said he was pleased with finally receiving his diploma and added he kept thinking about his mother. He said he told everyone, “This would mean everything to my mom.”

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