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Medal of Honor Recipient Gary Beikirch Interview
Vietnam veteran, former Army Special Forces medic, and Medal of Honor recipient Gary Beikirch shares his experiences in the military and offers lessons learned from a life of public service.
Born in Rochester, New York in 1947, Gary Beikirch enlisted in the U.S. Army just before his twentieth birthday, completing basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey in 1967. From there, he went on to Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia before assignment to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he completed the first and second phases of both Special Forces and medical training.
In the summer of 1969, Sgt. Beikirch deployed to the Kontum Province in the Central Highlands of Vietnam as a Medical and Light Weapons Specialist with the 5th Special Forces Group, serving as team medic in the remote village of Montagnard, Dak Seang, near the Laotian border. It was there that he would distinguish himself in combat, when, in defense of Camp Dak Seang from a surprise attack by a large contingent of NVA troops on April 1, 1970, Beikirch selflessly rescued numerous American, Vietnamese, and Montagnard casualties without regard to his personal safety or the multiple wounds he sustained in the process. For his actions that day, Sgt. Beikirch was presented the Medal of Honor by President Richard Nixon on October 15, 1973.
An ordained minister of the United Baptist Fellowship and a graduate of the University of New Hampshire and SUNY-Brockport, Beikirch recently retired after a 33-year career as a middle school counselor in his hometown of Rochester, NY. Since leaving the military, he has worked in hospital, prison, and youth ministry and as a team counselor with the Veterans Outreach Center, and has remained involved in supporting veteran and military organizations including, among others, The Military Order of the Purple Heart, Vietnam Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and The Congressional Medal of Honor Society, where he serves as Chaplain.
His military awards and decorations include: the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Bronze Star, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star, Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster, Combat Medic Badge, and American and Vietnamese Airborne Wings.
Interviewer Dr. John Allen Williams is a professor of political science at Loyola University Chicago. He is a retired Captain in the United States Navy Reserve and a member of the Board of Directors at the Pritzker Military Museum & Library.
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.