Gary B. Beikirch
US Army Special Forces
Medal of Honor, Vietnam

 

Because I have been in war many have asked what are my  thoughts and feelings about the terrorist attacks in New York City ,Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania.

There have been a few events in my life that have left me speechless...the birth of my children, my first parachute jump from a C-119, the horror of war in Vietnam, and most recently the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.  This is my attempt to regain that gift of speech...

One evening last week Tom Brokaw used a phrase to describe scenes that had become all too familiar to us as Americans...the devastation of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a small plot of land in Pennsylvania. He used the phrase...”fog of battle”.  As I heard that phrase it instantly began to make sense as I remembered smoke filled battlefields covering those who were killed... the acrid smell of gunpowder... the deafening sounds of explosions, guns, and screams... confusion and chaos that often left some virtually paralyzed with fear.

And yet during the confusion and “fog of battle” there were also those who seemed to be “guided”... “directed”...seeing something, someone...others could not see.  They seemed to be committed to a course of action that would cause us to stand in awe and humility as we watched and asked questions of: “Why.. How..are they able to do this?”  We then would call these acts... bravery...and the men and women who commit them...heroes.

On September 11 in the “fog of battle” in New York, Washington, and on a plane over Pennsylvania once again heroes were born.  As thousands screamed and ran in terror from a burning, towering inferno...hundreds of firefighters, police officers, and rescue workers ran into it.  On a plane destined for suicide four men chose to overpower hijackers regardless of their own fate so that perhaps thousands could be saved.


We who watched their acts of heroism and selfless care for others stand in awe and are humbled.  We call them heroes.

In Rochester there is a memorial to Vietnam veterans, to their survivors, to our community, and to our nation.  It is a memorial to commemorate, to educate, and to heal.  One of the most striking parts of that memorial is a life size statue of a soldier walking into a reflective, black granite wall.  As I sat before this statue on the morning of September 13 I thought about those who had so determinedly ran into the World trade Center.  I thought about those four men on that plane.  What made these individuals choose to act as they did?  What or who was guiding them through their “fog of battle”?  I then looked again at the statue and wondered what was it that made this soldier like so many others willing to walk so resolutely  into the blackness, the darkness of eternity, the “fog of battle”.

As I struggled to find an answer I got up and walked to the statue.  As I ran my hand over the blackness of the granite I walked behind the wall to look at two large stones set behind it.  Inscribed on the stones were the words... “ God...Duty...Honor...Country ”.

The answer was given to me.  What is it that some see that others do not?  What is it that guides and directs them through the chaos , confusion, and “fog of battle”?  What is it that enables them to walk into the valley of death... “God...Duty...Honor...Country”.

We as a country and as citizens of this country are now engaged in a battle. It is a terrible and devastating battle not only because of the mass destruction that has already occurred in our homeland, but what is more devastating is that  in only a few hours the symbols, and beliefs that so many of us relied on and cherished were attacked and shown to be vulnerable...our economic wealth, our military might, our technological superiority...things we trusted in, felt secure in...in such a short time were shown to be fallible.

As I walked from behind the black granite wall and sat before the statue once more I remembered a verse from the Old Testament spoken by the prophet Jeremiah... “ Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches...But let him that glorieth glory in this , that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth...” Jeremiah 9:23-24.

As we enter this battle, we as a people need to realize that it is not our riches, our wisdom, nor our strength that makes this a great nation.  What makes this nation great is our God and those who during the battles see only Him, their Duty to others... and who during the battles choose to act and live in a way that brings Honor to Him and our Country.

During this time of war there will be many battles fought. A battle with terrorists. Battles with an unknown enemy.  Battles with fear.  There will be loss and times of unspeakable sorrow.  It is during these times we need to seek and to see God.  It is during these times that we need to be guided and directed by Him for He has not given us the spirit of fear but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.  2 Tim 1:7.

As we walk with Him and trust Him during these times, we like Paul the Apostle, will then be able to say...” I know whom I have believed...” 2 Tim 1:12

It is time for America...it is a time for us as Americans... to once again know, and walk, and trust God.

O God, may our hearts be fixed on You. Ps 108:1

Gary Beikirch
Medal of Honor, Vietnam

 

 


Gary Beikirch received the Medal of Honor for his heroism as a US Army Special Forces Medical Aidman in Vietnam, ignoring his own serious wounds to care for others until he literally collapsed.  Upon discharge from the Army he became a minister and school counselor.

A very special thanks to Theresa Kratz of KratzKreations for the moving and patriotic graphic image tributes throughout these pages.

 

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