Vietnam Veterans Day: an unforgettable Medal of Honor message
We’ve come a long way from where we were when vets came home from Vietnam and were spit on and called baby killers. Frankly, I don’t know why it took so long to dedicate a day to those who gave so much for so many for so little thanks.
It’s unfair to use a Medal of Honor recipient as the case in point for Vietnam Veterans, but this reminded me of a quote from Gary Beikirch that I posted the other day. I’m sharing his videos again in this post, because we’ll get a lot more traffic with this being in the American Legion Online Update. But many felt like Gary when he came home:
“Everybody needs to know they are appreciated, and what they do matters. Because unless you are some kind of super hero, life is going to hit you hard. And there’s going to be those moments when you doubt, and you wonder ‘is it worth it? Does anybody care?’ For some of us, war tested us. […] Like many I came back from Vietnam and I was changed, war had changed me. I often say that the wounds I received in Vietnam were nothing compared to the wounds I received when I came home. It was the homecoming the destroyed me, and it destroyed me to such an extent that I couldn’t live among people anymore. And so what I chose to do was seek the security and the safety and the solitude of a cave in northern New Hampshire.”
Now, I’m not ruining the rest, because you HAVE to watch the video to hear about the cave, what brought Gary out of it, and how each of us have to fight the siren call of the cave.
But this legislation is an important step. For many, it’s a final “welcome home” that they should have received 40 plus years ago.
An act of Congress honoring Vietnam veterans with a day of recognition was signed into law by President Trump on Tuesday, per a White House press release. March 29 is now designated as National Vietnam War Veterans Day by the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017 according to Gateway Pundit. The U.S. flag is to be flown in commemoration of those who served in Vietnam.
The bipartisan bill was sponsored by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind. The bill passed the Senate last month and the House last week.
Forty-four years have passed since the last U.S. troops withdrew from Vietnam. Due to the unpopularity of the war, veterans returning home were often met with disdain and did not receive support or gratitude for their service.
“Some of them were actually treated quite poorly,” Toomey said. “And that was a tragic period in our history driven by people’s perceptions of the war. Fortunately, that, I think, is behind us now. And I hope and I believe we’ve gotten to a place where the American people realize how much we really should be grateful to the men and the women who served this country in Vietnam during that very, very difficult time.”
And here is a reprint of my post the other day.
Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish. Psalm 49:20 KCJ
I've always said the best speech I ever heard was Sal Giunta (a man I am proud to call a friend), which was largely because I'd been with him for a few hours before the speech, and as he was going up he asked how long to talk for. Ut oh I thought, this won't be good, he has nothing prepared. He didn't need anything, it was the most amazing thing, he had them eating out of the palm of his hand.
But as for speeches that really touched me deeply, none has ever come close to this speech by Gary Beikirch at the Medal of Honor Days down in Gainesvlle, Texas. I'm going to do this is reverse order, because his citation (as amazing as it is) really isn't the story:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Sgt. Beikirch, medical aidman, Detachment B-24, Company B, distinguished himself during the defense of Camp Dak Seang. The allied defenders suffered a number of casualties as a result of an intense, devastating attack launched by the enemy from well-concealed positions surrounding the camp. Sgt. Beikirch, with complete disregard for his personal safety, moved unhesitatingly through the withering enemy fire to his fallen comrades, applied first aid to their wounds and assisted them to the medical aid station. When informed that a seriously injured American officer was lying in an exposed position, Sgt. Beikirch ran immediately through the hail of fire. Although he was wounded seriously by fragments from an exploding enemy mortar shell, Sgt. Beikirch carried the officer to a medical aid station. Ignoring his own serious injuries, Sgt. Beikirch left the relative safety of the medical bunker to search for and evacuate other men who had been injured. He was again wounded as he dragged a critically injured Vietnamese soldier to the medical bunker while simultaneously applying mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to sustain his life. Sgt. Beikirch again refused treatment and continued his search for other casualties until he collapsed. Only then did he permit himself to be treated. Sgt. Beikirch's complete devotion to the welfare of his comrades, at the risk of his life are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the U.S. Army.
Now, PLEASE, I am begging you, set aside some time and watch this speech.
When I heard the speech I feel overwhelming guilt, and did everything I could do to fight back tears. I immediately called my wife and told her what he'd said, and the first thing she said was "I hope you didn't ask him where the cave is." My wife gets me. I've wanted to live in that cave without even knowing it since I got home, and I didn't see ANYTHING like what Mr. Beikirch saw.
I hope everyone gets a chance to watch, and think about what their cave is. I never fell prey to drinking or truly dangerous behaviour, mostly probably because I got out of the Army on a Friday and started Law School the next day.
But every day I can hear that cave calling. It's hard not to listen to it at times. Who wouldn't want to escape from everyday life and just live in peace that way. For Mr. Beikirch, he came out of if because of his wife, the same reason I didn't go into the cave, and for generations of men and women who he served as guidance counselor too at the High School, I thank God he did.
The American Legion also did a video with Gary: