Valor Friday

| December 31, 2021

Gary Beikirch

My least favorite Valor Friday posts to sit down and write are like this week’s. When I get word that a recipient of a high valor award has passed away, I like to honor them by making them my week’s subject. Today I’ll be discussing the heroism of Gary Beikirch, who unfortunately passed away this week on 26 December at age 74.

Gary Beikirch was born and raised in Rochester, New York. In 1967, after having attended two years of college, he elected to enlist in the Army. Perhaps inspired by Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler’s 1966 hit “The Ballad of the Green Beret”, Beikirch aspired for the grassy-hued French cap himself. He’d left college to “to broaden [his] experiences” as he put it. He sure as shit did that as you’ll soon see.

After completing basic training at Ft Dix, Beikirch did jump school at Ft Benning he was assigned to the airborne infantry. He soon earned a spot in Special Forces training, also at Benning. Going through the grueling training, Beikirch received training and assignment as a Special Forces Medic. During his time with the Army, Beikirch would eventually serve with the 3rd, 5th, and 10th Special Forces Groups. Along the way, he’d be sent into Vietnam.

In early 1970, while serving in Vietnam, he was a sergeant and assigned to B Company, 5th Special Forces Group at Dak Seang Camp. The Green Berets specialty is to work with indigenous forces, and that’s what they were doing at Dak Seang Camp. Here, Beikirch and his 11 Green Beret comrades were working with local Montagnard militia.

On 1 April, the camp was attacked by a far larger force of North Vietnamese forces. Attacking from well concealed positions around the camp, the enemy made a determined and devastating push on the Montagnard base.

Friendly forces suffered heavy casualties as a result of the onslaught. As the Montagnard medics dealt with the first waves of wounded, Beikirch used a 4.2” M30 mortar to beat back the enemy. When that weapon was disabled by enemy fire, he turned to a machine gun and manned that until casualties mounted further.

During the battle, Beikirch moved repeatedly, without regard for his own safety, through withering enemy fire to get to the wounded. When he was informed that an American officer lie wounded in an exposed position, Beikirch instantly moved. Running through a fuselade of enemy fire he ran to the man’s aid. Beikirch and his Montagnard bodyguard Deo carried the man to safety.

Along the way Beikirch was wounded by fragments from an enemy mortar blast, The mortar blast had shot a piece of shrapnel into his spine, rendering him unable to walk. Not even an hour into the battle.

Despite being seriously wounded himself, Beikirch refused medical attention at the relative safety of the medical tent and returned to the fight. Unable to walk, he had Deo and another Montagnard carry him around the battlefield so he could attend to the wounded.

Beikirch was wounded a second time as they dragged a Vietnamese ally to safety. Even more incredibly, as they were dragging the man back under heavy enemy fire Beikirch was giving the man mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Beikirch took an enemy bullet to his stomach as they moved through the battlefield.

“If I’m going to die, I’m not going to die here,” Mr. Beikirch remembers telling the boy. “I’m going to die in battle.” So Deo dragged him back out into combat. He “was carrying me. And when he couldn’t carry me anymore because he had been shot, he dragged me,” Beikirch said.

When Deo and Beikirch heard a rocket overhead, Deo covered the Green Beret with his own body, absorbing a lethal amount of shrapnel in the process. He was only 15 years old.

Sergeant Beikirch continued to refuse medical attention. With grievous wounds and having been shot three times, he went out again to find and treat casualties, only stopping once he collapsed. More than twelve hours had elapsed. For eleven of those, he was paralyzed. After finally collapsing, he was immediately medevac’d.

“The battle that was really the toughest I ever fought was a few days later when I woke up in a hospital bed and I was dying,” Beikirch said. Thankfully, Beikirch’s paralysis was only temporary. He regained the use of his legs and physically recovered, but left the Army in 1971 after completing four years of service.

Trying to find some peace, Beikirch moved to a cave in the mountains of New Hampshire. Laying his sleeping bag on a bed of pine needles, he was hoping for quiet and solace. Before long there was a note in his PO Box in town, saying to be available that evening for a call from the Pentagon. That night a Pentagon colonel told him he was to receive the Medal of Honor for his actions at Dak Seang.

Beikirch receiving his MoH from Nixon

He got onto a flight to D.C. where the Army quartermaster issued him a new uniform. Beikirch was then presented with the medal by President Nixon at a White House ceremony in October 1973.

Beikirch returned to his cave, stuffed the medal into his duffel bag, and didn’t take it out for seven years.

“Here I had gone into a cave to try to forget about Vietnam,” says Mr. Beikirch, “and now they’re going to give me a medal for something I’m trying to forget.”

As the Wall Street Journal described it, such is the burden of the Medal of Honor.

“For those who earn it, the medal is a loaded gift. It’s a source of instant celebrity, and an entree into a world of opportunity and adulation. It’s also a reminder of what is often the worst day of their lives. And it is a summons to a lifetime of service from those who did something so courageous as young men—so at odds with their own chances of survival—that it was beyond what duty demands.”

“It is harder to live with the medal than it was to earn it,” Beikirch said.

Beikirch used his GI Bill benefits to return to college, earning a bachelor’s degree in Sociology-Psychology from the University of New Hampshire in Durham and a master’s in Education in Counseling from the State University of New York at Brockport.

He met his wife, Loreen, and proposed to her on their first date. She agreed, provided he move out of the cave. He acquiesced and they married and had three children.

The burdens of the Medal of Honor were great for Beikirch, but he was encouraged by other Medal of Honor recipients, including Charles MacGillivary (who earned his at the Battle of the Bulge as an Army sergeant), that helping others might help him.

Finally taking the advice, Beikirch went to work as a veteran’s counselor and pastor. For 33 years he was a guidance counselor for middle school kids in the Rochester, NY area. He said he wanted to help young people because without one young Montagnard’s sacrifice, he wouldn’t be there. “Here was a young boy who loved me enough to give himself for me,” he said.

On 26 December 2021 Gary Beikirch passed away. He is survived by his wife Loreen, his three children, 14 grandchildren, and several great-grandchildren.

Beikirch’s death leaves 66 living Medal of Honor recipients of the more than 3,500 awarded. There is currently only one recipient alive from World War II and two from the Korean War.

Category: Army, Historical, Medal of Honor, Valor, Vietnam, We Remember

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Why has there not been exposure to the general public like that of Roy Benevides for example? I don’t want it to sound like I am slighting the MSG but I am curious if it may have something to do with the personal struggle SGT Beikirch had? I have to be honest that his last quote in this story really got me. Here is a man who struggled with the medal and what it represents. Working with young adults probably saved his life. I guess we all need to find something that gives meaning to our service and sacrifices. Charles Magillivary’s advice is just as viable now as it was then. All of these men are true heroes in every sense of the word. Thanks for the write up.


Godspeed and Fare Well SGT Beikirch. May God’s Peace bring some of His Comfort to your family.

A True Warrior that brought every weapon to bear against his enemy and then continued to care for his Comrades, tho shot to pieces. “…that such men lived…” Rest Easy, Good Sir, the battles are over and you won the war.

Thanks Mason.


Fair winds and following seas, Sergeant Beikirch. Hand Salute. Ready, Two!

Thanks again, Mason.


We’ve got your ruck. Rest In Peace, Dear Sergeant.


Tough read. Thanks Mason.


Reading this story, that I have never heard before, I am struck by his bravery but also that of the Montagnards and wonder what happened with that?


The fact there is only 66 living recipients left is stunning. I received a coffee table book called “Medal of Honor” in 2002 or so and it talked about how there was only 114 left. Losing that many in 20 years, even though a few have been awarded/upgraded is…wow.


Hard to read. A valiant and humble man. God be with his family now and may he rest in peace.

Milo Mindbender

How come these stories are not wider spread, it got dusty in here, but this is the image and humility we need to strive for, less Miley and Vanilly more warrior citizen.

Skivvy Stacker

Every time I think I’ve heard the most amazing story of how someone earned the Medal Of Honor, another one comes along to awe me all over again.

Where do these men come from? Where do they find the kind of insane courage it takes to do the things they do at the moment of darkest night that helps them light a fire for those around them?
And what makes them even greater by making them so humble in the face of such blessed ability?

Could I ever have done something even half as good, and have earned that medal?


I knew I was saving the good Scotch for something.

As a side note, I wonder if Deo or his family was ever officially recognized in any way?