Sacrificing On The Battlefield & Investing In The Next Generation – With Gary Beikirch: What is life really all about? If forgetting doesn’t heal hearts, what does? Tune in to hear highly decorated army medical sergeant Gary Beikirch share how his experiences in Vietnam taught him that building true relationships based on listening and love can save the lives of those around you.
Air Date: 06/10/2020
On-air Personalities: David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton
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Transcription note: Â As a courtesy for our listeners’ enjoyment, we are providing a transcription of this podcast. Transcription will be released shortly. However, as this is transcribed from a live talk show, words and sentence structure were not altered to fit grammatical, written norms in order to preserve the integrity of the actual dialogue between the speakers. Additionally, names may be misspelled or we might use an asterisk to indicate a missing word because of the difficulty in understanding the speaker at times. We apologize in advance.
Faith and the Culture
Welcome to the intersection of faith and the culture. This is WallBuilders Live and we’re talking about today’s hottest topics on policy and faith and the culture. We’re here with David Barton, America’s premier historian and our founder of WallBuilders, with Tim Barton, national speaker and pastor and president of WallBuilders. My name is Rick Green, I’m a former Texas legislator and America’s Constitution coach. Check us out at wallbuilderslive.com for more information.
Alright, David, Tim, one of our great veteran interviews today, two things a little bit different about this one. We’re typically doing World War Two guys: this is a Vietnam veteran and the second thing is he’s a Medal of Honor recipient.
Yeah, Medal of Honor is super, super, that is such a small group of guys. There’s only 80 living today who have received the Medal of Honor. And you go back over our 200 plus years of military history, you got little over 3,000 total out of 57 million guys who have been military and guys were from Texas girls and guys, but 57 million served in the military.
You have about 3,500 who have received the Medal of Honor, that’s one out of every 16,000 soldiers. So, this is a really, really elite group and it was also part of the Special Forces. So, you know, Special Forces elite, Medal of Honor recipient, that’s elite, so, I guess he’s double elite in that sense.
Well, we’re going to take a quick break and when we come back, Sergeant Gary Beikirch is with us. Stay with us, you’re listening to WallBuilders Live.
Let Us Tell Your Vet’s Story!
Hey friends, if you’ve been listening to WallBuilders Live for very long in all, you know how much we respect our veterans and how appreciative we are of the sacrifice they make to make our freedoms possible. One of the ways that we love to honor those veterans is to tell their stories. Here on WallBuilders Live, once in a while we get an opportunity to interview veterans that have served on those frontlines, that have made incredible sacrifices, have amazing stories that we want to share with the American people.
One of the very special things we get to do is interview World War Two veterans. You’ve heard those interviews here on WallBuilders Live from folks that were in the band of brothers to folks like Edgar Harrell that survived being Indianapolis to so many other great stories you’ve heard on WallBuilders Live.
You have friends and family that also serve. If you have World War Two veterans in your family that you would like to have their story shared here on WallBuilders Live, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. email@example.com. Give us a brief summary of the story and we’ll set up an interview. Thanks so much for sharing here on WallBuilders Live.
Welcome back to WallBuilders Live. Thanks so much for staying with us. We’re thrilled to have Army Medical Sergeant Gary Beikirch with us from Greece, New York. Gary, thanks for coming on, sir.
Oh, it’s a blessing to be able to be here and share some time with you.
Well, we got to laugh off-air about the fact that I thought you were from Greece, Greece, not just Greece, New York. And I said you sound normal, but you said New Yorkers never sound normal.
Army Medical Sergeant Gary Beikirch
No, that’s for sure.
But I can actually understand you. So, I’m talking Texan and you’re talking to York and we’re understanding each other, just fine.
Well, that’s because I’m from way out of the city. I grew up in western New York up near the grape orchards and apple orchards. And so, I have very little to do with the city.
Oh, that’s probably good. Right?
That’s very good.
Very good. Well, we sure appreciate you coming on, this is something we love doing at WallBuilders and just getting some of the stories of those who sacrificed and fought for our freedom and you know, to make it real for people that have never been in that position to appreciate our freedom more, realize it’s not free and guys like you that paid heavy prices, in your case at a time when the nation did not appreciate the sacrifices that you made. So, thanks for coming on and giving us a chance to talk a little bit about your story. Goes all the way back, I guess, did you go in 68, I know you got deployed in 69?
Yeah, I enlisted in 1967.
In 67, okay, so you enlisted in 67. You were how old?
Special Forces at 20 Years Old
Let’s see. I’d just turned 20.
20 years old. Okay, so 20 years old and you became a Special Forces combat medic. Tell us what that means exactly?
Well, I had to go through basic training, infantry training, airborne school and then Special Forces training, which was very intense. And then once you finished the Special Forces [inaudible 04:19] training. I went through a medical phase of training, which is well, I was told it was about a year and a half of training. I became an A team medic, I was assigned to an A team which was 12 Americans and I was deployed to Vietnam and I lived in a jungle with a tribe of mountaineer people that were an ethnic minority.
They lived in the jungles, the highlands of Vietnam. They were looked down upon by many of the Vietnamese and they were referred to as primitive heathen. But living with the mountaineers as I did with 12 other Americans was probably one of the greatest experiences of my life. But I was the sole medical support for this village of mountaineer people, there were 2,300 of them.
Wow. So, you aren’t just helping the guys in your unit, you are also helping the people in that village?
Right. I was the camp veterinarian, the dentist, preventive medicine specialist. I did all sorts of diagnosing and treatment of diseases, surgical procedures, delivered babies, also took care of the livestock. And as a young 23-year-old, being a medic, it became my job to develop a relationship with the witch doctor, every tribe had a witch doctor.
True Friendship During War
And so I needed to develop a relationship with them and that was a challenge, but it’s a challenge that many of the Special Forces guys have to face, because our job is to assimilate into a culture, to become one of them, to develop a rapport with them a comradery so that we can exchange with each other. This was their country. This was their life. They lived in the jungles.
And as a matter of fact, when I went there, I asked a 15-year-old mountaineer boy, I said, look at <Deo>, his name was <Deo>. I said, you have to teach me how to survive here in the jungle, because I don’t like snakes and I’m afraid of tigers. And he said, I don’t want to teach you how to survive in the jungle.
He said, the Jungle gives us our way of life. And over the next year, he said, I want to teach you how to live in the jungle. And so, during that next year, he taught me how to, in the midst of something that was threatening and fearful for me, he taught me how not to just survive, but to go into that environment, to go into this experience and look for things that enabled me to live because the jungle provided them their life. And this was a lesson that a 15-year-old taught me.
Wow! What an incredible life. You’re 23, you’re learning this from a 15-year-old. That had to be one of the most important things you brought back with you?
Actually, it was. Many things that I brought back with me, I wasn’t able to tap into until after I spent some time in a cave trying to reflect on all that stuff. But one of the greatest things that they also taught me was I found a home in that village, a place where there was love that was beautiful, comradery that was just tremendous.
Medal of Honor and a 15-Year-Old Hero
And <Deo> shared that comradery with me to the extent that when our camp came under attack, I was shot three times I couldn’t walk anymore. All the things that I did that people said I did to deserve the Medal of Honor, I did because they all carried me. This 15-year-old boy, when he found me after I was shot, he carried me around and helped me to continue to fight and to serve others, to help others, bring them down to the medical bunker. And then we heard a rocket coming in and <Deo> threw me on the ground and laid on top of me and was killed protecting me.
Wow! 15 years old!
Yeah. So, he taught me about love and in a sense, a greater love that I would really learn about more once I became a Christian. But I already had this experience of becoming part of a community in the midst of this jungle all because of the love that was shared between us.
You experienced, I mean, literally no greater love has any man in this city lay down his life for his friend and he did that, <Deo> did that for you? For you, I guess, even Memorial Day has a special meaning in that regard, even though he wasn’t American soldier, he laid down his life for you?
Yes, that had a tremendous impact on me. And it was the guilt that I felt for that act of love combined with the homecoming that I like, many veterans received when we came back. It was that guilt and anger and hurt that I was feeling that forced me to try to isolate myself, try to find someplace where I could heal, try to find some place where I felt safe. And so, I chose a cave up in northern New Hampshire in the White Mountains.
Forgetting Doesn’t Heal
I spent a year and a half there, believing that the way for me to heal would be to just forget: if I could forget about it, I would feel better. But after a year and a half, I learned that forgetting wasn’t getting better. You see, because I didn’t like being alone.
And so, I started thinking about, one of the things we had in Vietnam that really helped me kind of make some sense out of life was that to really live, you must almost die. To those that fight for it, life has a meaning, the protected will never know. And I thought about that, I thought about <Deo> and I started to think about life, what it really meant.
And I had taken a Bible into that cave with me because I had recently become a Christian. And I was praying and I said, Lord, teach me about what it means to live, what is life really all about? What about Vietnam and all that I experienced?
And in that year and a half, I learned that for kidding was not getting better, getting better was finding someone who could come into that cave with you, who would love you, who would listen to you, who would bring healing into your life. And for me, that person that came into that cave, there were two people.
One was God that came and healed with me. And the other was this beautiful young lady down in Lancaster, New Hampshire, which was the nearest town. I saw her, met her, fell in love with her, ask her to marry me. And she said, only six months out of the cave. So, her love brought me out of that cave along with the love of God. And we’ve been together, both God and my wife for almost 15 years.
Wow! Now, I got to ask you this. I want to go back to the jungle in a minute. But did you all end up in Lancaster or did you go back to New York?
Back to College
From Lancaster, we moved to Maine where I served as associate pastor of a church for a short time. I quickly learned that I wasn’t called a pastor, but I loved working with kids. So, I went back to college and I got another master’s degree in counseling and I just recently retired after 33 years, working as a middle school counselor, teaching young people the lessons that <Deo> taught me.
I love it. Oh, wow. Wow, that’s so powerful. Okay, I got to go back to, there were several things you said back when you were in the jungle. So, give me a timeline. How long were you there prior to April 1st when the camp came under attack and you were injured?
I got there July of 69 and this was April 1 1970.
So, almost a year?
Almost a year. Okay. And so, you were obviously, had become close to <Deo> during all of that. And I mean, the things I can’t imagine as a 23-year-old, the life lessons, the responsibility, the maturity that had to happen so fast for you to do all those things you were describing.
I mean, literally being the healer for me, not just the people but the animals, I mean, everything that you were doing at 23-years-old. That’s a huge responsibility. That’s part of what those of us who haven’t been in war and thrust into those situations at such a young age, one of the things that just blows my mind is how much you had to have grown up in a very short period of time.
The Attitude of a Student
Yes. And I attribute the Special Forces training to being a great help for that. They didn’t teach me all that I would need to know. But what they taught me was, how to have the attitude that would always make me a student. We went into the jungle to live with this tribe with the attitude of being a student and therefore, we were ready to hear everything that they had to teach us.
We received it with open arms, because we had the attitude that you never know everything, you’re always going to be a student, always be ready to learn something from someone else because that person next to you knows something that you don’t and may have something very valuable to be able to share with you that can make a tremendous difference in your life.
So, Special Forces training was tremendous. It taught me how to become a soldier, how to become a medical professional, but what really is a topic, what was how to become a person who could develop a relationship with another person, who could learn how to live with someone from a different culture, who could learn how to love someone who doesn’t think the same way that you do, but to be able to build a bond of love, so that together, mutually, you can develop friendship with them and a relationship. That’s what enabled me to be able to do all that we did in Vietnam.
Well, and that had to have been a big part of even on that day on April 1st, because you and <Deo> I mean, not only you know, obviously, he was killed and you were severely injured, but even after you had both been injured, before he died, you guys continue to move around and save people, to give aid to people. I mean, so much so that you’re one of the few that’s received the Medal of Honor. I was looking at the list, I mean, Purple Heart, Distinguished Service Cross, Silverstein Bronze Star, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, the Combat Medic Badge, you know, those are not given out like candy.
Pouring Into Youth
I mean, you obviously performed under pressure, again 23 years old and this kid at 15. It’s amazing to me and it had to have been something that served you again for the rest of your life to be able to do what you’ve done and pouring into these young people and passing that on to them. So, I just want to say thank you to you for at a young age giving so much of yourself, but even more than that, to come back home and turn around and pass that on to young people. I just think it’s rare and it’s so needed. And I mean, I just appreciate you, sir.
Thank you very much, Rick. That means a lot, especially at the time we know when things are so crazy. Every time we have an opportunity to encourage someone, it’s a special thing. And people often ask me like during that battle, weren’t you afraid of dying? And there was a point after the third time I was shot, I thought I was going to die and <Deo>wanted to keep me down in the medical bunker. But I said, <Deo>, if I’m dying, I don’t want to die down here, you know, call it the warrior spirit or whatever. But I said, if I’m going to die, <Deo>, I want to die in battle, not hiding in a medical bunker.
So, <Deo> took me back out into the battle and people said, weren’t you afraid? And I said, I don’t remember any fear at all, because I experienced something that was greater than fear. What I experienced was the love: the love that I had for those people, the love that those people had for me.
There would be times when <Deo> and I would be dragging each other and we would look in each other’s eyes when we were both been wounded and we would just, you know, smile at each other and say, come on, we’re going to do this, we can make this. There was a mutual exchange of love that was much greater than any fear we had of the battles that we were in. And that was another lesson. You know that love is probably one of the greatest gifts that we can give to another.
When I became a Christian, I remember reading that Jesus said by this show all men know you’re my disciples, Gary, if you have love one for another. And I thought, yeah, I can do that. And then in John 15, he said, but there’s a greater love, Gary, I want you to have a greater love, Gary. And he said that greater love had no man in this, that man lay down his life for his friends. And I thought about <Deo>.
Loving Like Jesus
And I thought about making a prayer every day, God, I don’t want it just love. Give me the ability, the strength, the opportunities to experience and to share your greater love. And that’s been my prayer. And those were my thoughts, well, the other day on Memorial Day. The idea of sharing the greater love that Jesus talked about, the idea of sharing the greater love that men and women have been sharing for the freedom of this country since this country was founded. That greater love is a tremendous witness to who we are as a nation and what makes us different from the rest of the world.
So powerful. So powerful. Before we go, I want to make sure folks understand, even in that back. Because sometimes you hear about some of these things and you don’t know when somebody says they were shot or wounded, you don’t know if it’s just his flesh or what… you were seriously injured, shrapnel right by your spine. You couldn’t even walk by the end of this thing, I think six months. Weren’t you six months at, even once you got back, well first, you went to hospital in Japan, I guess and then you were transferred to Valley Forge Medical Center, Pennsylvania, six months there just learning how to…
10 months, 10 months just learning how to walk again. Were you able to, I mean, after that, did you finally reach a point where you were physically able to be mostly restored where you can walk and do things normally?
Blaze of Light
Yeah, the physical healing came along much quicker than the emotional healing. I still have some physical ailments. I still have shrapnel in my spine. But the healing that really took the longest was the mental, emotional healing. And that would not have happened without the grace of God and the forgiveness of God in my life. It was that healing that enabled me to finally come out of the cave with a message about God’s love.
And ironically, that’s the message that my wife and I finally decided to put down into a book and we wrote that book ‘The Blaze of Light’. It’s a story about the battle, but it’s a love story. It’s a love story, but about the mountaineer is for myself. It’s a love story regarding a soldier who comes home from war, seeking healing and find healing in the most unlikely place in a cave because God ghost comes into that cave and loves him.
Well, we’re going to put a link to that book today in our website. My last question for you, because I’m a baseball guy. You were honored at the MLB All Star game a couple years ago, I guess to 2018, right, I think was the year? How cool was that? I just got to hear that from you. What was that like to be down on the field and a part of that and to be honored in that way?
The thing I remember most of it that, Rick, was that it was a tremendous honor and we had gone out and rehearsed so that all of us knew where we were supposed to stand, how we were supposed to march out because everything had to be timed perfectly, because it was live TV. And after the introductions and we were honored, they were getting ready to continue with the program. But all the players broke ranks and they came over because they wanted to shake hands with each one of us.
They didn’t follow the script they wanted to… And you could see the Fox News and everybody running around trying to, you know, cut to a commercial because they just don’t know what to do. But it was just an amazing thing to have all these baseball players coming over and just wanted to say hi, just wanted to thank us. It was a tremendous joy.
That’s awesome. I love it. I love it. Man, thank you, thank you so much for what you did back then and what you did for all those years after and continue to do. And 50 years, that’s fantastic. Amen. Happy Anniversary, whenever it was, when was it?
April 1st was the anniversary of the battle and March 30th was the anniversary of our marriage.
Oh, right there next to each other. Fantastic. Well, congratulations to both of you. Thank you for being a great American and a great patriot. And thanks for giving us some time today. We really do appreciate you.
Well, I’ve had a chance over the last couple of days to listen to your show on some of the broadcast. I listened to Dave River, I know him. And then I listened to the one you had for Memorial Day, the World War Two gentlemen who was a POW. What a tremendous story he had. So, I appreciate the passion that you have in ministry and the vision that you all have and it’s been an honor to be a part of your mission. Thank you.
It’s our honor. Thank you, sir. We appreciate you being on and I look forward to sharing your story with people all over the country and frankly around the world.
We’re back now with David and Tim. Guys, what a special treat. Man, I mean, this is another one of those guys that just to get his interview in the can and share it with folks and have it for posterity. Incredible experience and what an incredible story with that 15-year-old kid.
Yeah, I will also, was very intrigued when he said I was a pastor, but I wasn’t a very good pastor. I just thought, I wonder what that means, right? Were you in moments where somebody was having a hard time and you’re like, suck it up Buttercup, right? Like, what did you do that made you not good?
Because if you’ve been in this elite level, right, and all the things that he experienced, it certainly would have had an impact and changed his life where he’s not only the medic for the special forces unit, but there’s 2,300 people in town and then he is the medic for them, he is the dentist for them, he takes care of the animals.
I mean, all the experiences he had and then I loved the line where he said I got to learn how to survive in the jungle and the kid says no, it’s not surviving, you learn how to live in the jungle. It’s a different mindset. And just so much that shaped and changed him along the way.
I even thought, man, if I was one of the kids where he’s a junior high counselor, I don’t think junior high kids would be able to fully appreciate how special this guy was they’re going to talk to. But if anybody had any concept, I think I would be asking you guys, you know, raising hand in class, can I go see the counselor? I didn’t go talk to the counselor. And I would just go and say, hey, can you tell me some cool stories, right? Because knowing this guy’s story now, you know, this guy had so many cool stories. It’s so impressive to hear some of his testimony.
Well, it was so neat to hear his story because he kept going to life lessons. I mean, he did not talk much about what actually happened in the battle. Yeah, he gets shot three times and after the third time, he thought I might die. So, what do you think after the first two does, he got shot?
Yeah, after the third shot, I thought, you know, I might…. Okay, I like to think I’m kind of tough, but I’m pretty sure after the first shot, I’m going to like, I’m about to die. This is terrible. This hurts. I don’t like this at all. It took three for him. That’s impressive.
But he was talking about how that the one thing he learned from Special Forces and I would not have expected this. He says it taught me to be a learner. It taught me how to be a student. It taught made the attitude of learning. And I thought that’s a great life lesson is, always be a learner and that’s a good one for all of us is, doesn’t matter your age, doesn’t matter what you’re doing. Always be a learner. Always learn new things. Always be willing to learn new things. That’s a great life lesson.
The Fate of America Depends on Us!
It is. And we’ve all got to become students of freedom. We’ve got to be willing to learn and especially today, I mean, when there are so many questions about what we actually believe, what our nation stands for, what is the history of our nation? It is a great time to be diving into history in the Constitution, in the Bible and looking for those answers on how society should work.
And I know a lot of people right now are scared for the future of our country and they’re worried that, you know, when you see the chaos that is out there, in fact, in that recent poll said 80% of Americans say the country is out of control. And no question, we’ve talked about the out of control government, the actions of our government from being, you know, dictators in the COVID crackdowns on one hand to literally supporting looting and violence in a mob and giving into a mob on the other hand.
But friends, the fate of America doesn’t depend on the crisis we face, it depends on how we the people respond to that crisis. The future of our country depends on whether or not there are enough of us that still believe in the principles of liberty and take enough action to restore them.
And we are at WallBuilders, we still believe in those principles, we still believe in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, that that means something for all of mankind. That even though America is a system that has flaws, you know, because it was designed by human beings, that it is still become the most free, most prosperous force for good the world has ever known. Our nation and our people in every generation from 1776 till now have been willing to lay down their lives so that others might be free.
We still hold these truths to be self-evident, the truth that God is the source of freedom, not government, that we are all created equal and to be treated as such under the law of blind justice, equal justice has to be blind justice, that the only just power of government comes from consent of the governed, from we the people.
Sacrificing On The Battlefield & Investing In The Next Generation – With Gary Beikirch
These basic truths created the greatest nation in the history of the world and we have to bring those truths back. They have to permeate our culture again. We have to replace the leftist, secular progressivism that unfortunately threatens the very fabric of our society. How do we do that? You do that. I do that. Each of us as individuals have to become students of freedom.
We challenge you, we challenge our churches to once again become the epicenters of our communities. The place where bedrock principles of religion and morality are found. Without religion, there’s no morality. Without morality, friends, there’s no liberty.
Truths, moral clarity, the very basic ideas of right and wrong must regain their place as the indispensable supports of our political prosperity. It begins with you. It begins with me. This is not a time to despair, but rather a time of reflection that must lead to resolve. Reflection on what we believe, what is true and just and then resolve to stand for that truth. Fight for that justice and very simply, to do good.
So, buck up, America. Remember the word of Thomas Paine when it looked like the entire American Revolution was lost. He said, “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must like men undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” Become a supporter of freedom. Become a Constitution coach and learn these things yourself and share it with others.
Become a financial supporter of WallBuilders Live. Go to wallbuilderslive.com today and make a donation to help us teach these truths and get more people to become students of freedom. We can restore America’s constitutional republic if we work together to do so.
Thanks so much for listening today. You’ve been listening to WallBuilders Live.