Honoring Gary Beikirch
Organization: U.S. Army
Company: Detachment B-24, Company B
Division: 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces
Conflict: Vietnam War
Date of Action: 4/1/1970
Date of Issue: 10/15/1973
Today we celebrate the 71st birthday of Army Medical Sergeant Gary B. Beikirch, who received the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions as a Special Forces combat medic in the Vietnam War. Just before his 20th birthday, Beikirch enlisted in the Army. He completed the Special Forces Qualification Course at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and deployed to Vietnam in July 1969 as a light weapons and medical specialist. He later became a medic for Army Special Forces Airborne Detachment B-24.
During his deployment, Beikirch was stationed in several parts of Vietnam. In 1970, he was at Camp Dak Seang in Kon Tum Province. The nearby village was inhabited by the Montagnard people, who worked closely with the United States Army and were trained by Special Forces teams to protect their villages. A 15-year-old Montagnard boy named Deo was assigned to Sergeant Beikirch to act as his bodyguard, and the two grew to be friends.
At around 3 a.m. on April 1 the camp came under attack from a massive North Vietnamese force. Beikirch immediately gathered medical supplies and moved through enemy fire to assist wounded soldiers, administering first aid and bringing many to the medical aid bunker. In this initial run, Beikirch was hit by shrapnel, but he kept moving, with Deo right behind him.
Beikirch and Deo went out into a hail of gun and rocket fire to rescue a seriously-wounded Montagnard soldier. In the process of returning to the medical bunker, Beikirch felt a rocket coming in and threw himself on top of the man he was rescuing. As a result, he was hit by shrapnel near the spine and was unable to walk. Deo, also wounded, carried him and another Army soldier to the medical bunker. Despite their severe wounds, Beikirch and Deo continued to aid hurt soldiers.
As they moved through the camp, providing aid and relocating injured men to the medical bunker, another rocket came towards them. Deo sacrificed his life to save Sergeant Beikirch, throwing himself on top of him to protect him from the blast. Beikirch was carried back to the bunker by other Montagnard medics and again, despite his many serious injuries, he refused to remain there. He selflessly continued to aid wounded soldiers and was hit yet again, by a round of gunfire to his back. Ultimately, he collapsed and was loaded onto a helicopter and sent to a hospital in Japan. He was later transferred and spent six months at the Valley Forge Medical Center in Pennsylvania, healing and learning how to walk again.
He remembers Deo as “a tremendous, tremendous guy.” When asked about Deo in an interview, Beikirch said, “My Medal of Honor citation says that I did all these things but actually I couldn’t have done any of them, except that I had…Deo.”
For his bravery and commitment to his mission and his comrades, Sergeant Beikirch received the Medal of Honor on October 15, 1973. He also received the Purple Heart, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, the Combat Medic Badge and Vietnamese Airborne Wings. Additionally, on September 22, 2012, the Second Battalion of the Fifth Special Forces Group (Airborne) named the new Battalion Operations Complex Beikirch Hall.
After active-duty military service, Sergeant Beikirch continued to dedicate himself to others. He became an ordained minister of the United Baptist Fellowship and spent many years as a counselor in schools, prisons, hospitals and with the Veterans Outreach Center. He often called upon his service and experience with Deo when working with student populations; “”I’ve taught my students that there’s a big difference between success and significance. Significance is when you are part of somebody’s life and they are part of yours and you both walk away changed. Deo never reached his 16th birthday, never graduated from high school, never went to college— but he had the most significant impact on my life. He was able to love, to care, to sacrifice. That’s character.” He currently serves as chaplain for the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.
Gary Beikirch is one of the 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients whose combat valor and civic heroics will be enshrined in the National Medal of Honor Museum at Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant, SC. These heroes deserve a home for their legacy to be shared with the next generations.
As the only military museum to recognize all branches of the armed services, it will highlight the fact that the recipients of our nation’s highest military award not only defended our country, they were instrumental in developing, designing, and enriching it.
The museum will be a vault for the values embodied in the medal: courage, sacrifice and patriotism. It will showcase the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation Character Development Program, including living histories of over 100 recipients. It will also house the Citizens Heroes Program honoring ordinary citizens who have epitomized the concept of “service above self”.
Americans will walk out of that museum with the conviction that they too can be a hero, inspired by the values of courage and sacrifice that the Medal of Honor recipients used to excel in combat and in civilian life. Learn more at mohmuseum.org.