April Cheek Messier, 1996-1998, followed her passion for American history to serve her country at the National D-Day Memorial. Growing up in Bedford, Virginia, the American town with the highest per-capita D-Day casualties, April was constantly reminded of the sacrifices made by her community. Bringing the history of WWII to a new generation, April served to educate the masses about the sacrifice, leadership, and honor surrounding the D-Day invasions.
As a Hokie, April found her home within the graduate history department–despite being the only woman studying in the department. Forming a close-knit bond with her peers and professors, April broadened her view of history and found a strong support system within her department. Attending graduate school at Virginia Tech provided April with a strong network through which she sourced professional and emotional support.
“If somebody was down and they weren’t able to, not sure how they were going to finish the project for the next day we would rally behind them and we did that for one another. And we still, the few of us who graduated from that particular program we still stay in touch, and it’s nice just seeing how each other is doing.”April Cheek-Messier
Outside of the classroom, these relationships served to challenge April academically and opened her mind to the viewpoints of others. Following her graduation, April began her remarkable career at a small historic house. Although apprehensive to accept the job offer, April found that the small scale of the museum allowed for her to flourish. April was later able to adapt her creative experience forming programs from scratch to better the mission of the National D-Day memorial.
With an impressive military presence within the Hokie Nation, April has experienced the Virginia Tech Pylons–Brotherhood, Honor, Leadership, Sacrifice, Service, Loyalty, Duty, and Ut Prosim–throughout her career with the National D-Day Memorial. Immersed in the history of WWII, April educates visitors of the Memorial to help commemorate the lives lost and sacrifices made.
“…we also want people to understand what was gained that day, and what was gained certainly was the beaches and then a country and then a continent and our freedom, our freedom from that tyranny that existed. “April Cheek-Messier
Virginia Tech’s Corps of Cadets has raised $200,000 for the memorial; understanding the significance of the memorial and the importance of historical preservation, the Hokie Nation remains connected with the mission of the non-profit memorial. April utilized the deeply rooted connections within the Virginia Tech community to grow intellectually and professionally, exemplifying the idea that support of the Hokie Nation expands beyond a student’s time on campus. The energy felt when one steps on campus remains within Hokies, and the connections built between Hokies serve as a touchstone for the rest of a Hokie’s life. April sourced the energy of the Hokie Nation to follow her passion–educating the world about the duty, honor, and sacrifice surrounding D-Day.
“You feel the energy, and like I said it’s contagious and you know you take that back with you. It’s just something you don’t forget. It stays with you, it does.”April Cheek-Messier
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About this Story
Date Recorded: October 22, 2015
Interviewer: Jenny Nehrt
Date Posted: November 10, 2016
Editor: Shannon Larkin & Jessie Rogers