Recipient: Medal of Honor 'something that's greater than any one

Recipient: Medal of Honor 'something that's greater than any one man'

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LUBBOCK, Texas -

Gary Beikirch dropped out of college after two years to join the Green Berets in the Vietnam War; he served as a medic, and according to his citation, distinguished himself during the defense of Camp Dak Seang in April 1970. The camp, a strategic point on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, was used by U.S. special forces groups to interdict Viet Cong and North Vietnamese army moving along the path.

Sergeant Beikirch didn't mention the battle at the Second Baptist Church's Memorial Day service Sunday night, but instead emphasized the importance of the honor the Army gave him "for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty."

On April 1, 1970, North Vietnamese forces surrounded and sieged Camp Dak Seang for more than a month. Throughout the siege, Sergeant Beikirch's citation indicates he moved without hesitation through the hail of enemy mortar, artillery, and gunfire to rescue, treat, and pull back other soldiers and operators wounded in the attack. The citation reports Beikirch rescued an American officer from an exposed position without hesitation, suffering shrapnel wounds from a mortar shell, and returned him to the aid station for treatment.

Ignoring his own serious wounds, the citation continues, Sergeant Beikirch returned to the field to search for and evacuate more soldiers and operators. He suffered another wound while dragging a critically-wounded South Vietnamese soldier to the medical bunker, while performing CPR to keep him alive. Once more, the citation reports Beikirch refused treatment and returned to his search.

Other medical aidmen could only help Sergeant Beikirch when he finally collapsed.

Beikirch received the Congressional Medal of Honor three years later, for "a complete dedication to the welfare of his comrades, at risk of his own life and in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service."

Beikirch was the keynote speaker at Second Baptist Church's Memorial Day service, commemorating the deaths of other service members throughout the years. He said he had to figure out what the Medal of Honor really meant before he could accept it back in '73, and turned to the Bible, citing Psalm 49:20 -- "Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish."

"I represents something that's greater than any one man doing any one thing," Beikirch said. "The Medal of Honor shares a message that there were thousands and millions of men and women who love this country and value this country and are willing to serve this country, so when this medal is worn, it's worn for them."

Beikirch said carrying the award for valor also represents a different way of living life -- one that only his service could teach, and one he said servicemembers killed in action would want civilians to learn.

"There was a saying we had in Vietnam," he explained, "that was 'To really live, you must almost die.' To those that fight for it, life has a new meaning to protect it we'll never know.

"There's a way to live your life," Beikirch continued, "believing there's something greater than self, believing that there's a different way to live: carying and loving others."

A second service member, Sergeant First Class Gary Littrell, earned the Congressional Medal of Honor in the siege of Camp Dak Seang for his leadership and gallantry in resupplying American and South Vietnamese positions defending the camp and calling in air strikes to prevent further North Vietnamese incursion. His citation indicates "indomitable courage and complete disregard for his safety" and "sustained extraordinary courage and selflessness" over an extended period of time.

The North Vietnamese did not take Dak Seang Camp. It's since been turned over to serve as forestry and housing next to the Ho Chi Minh Highway.

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