MOH Recipient Gary Beikirch Dead at 74

Faye Higbee
Gary Beikirch

Gary Beikirch, Medal of Honor recipient and Green Beret, died at 3 p.m. on Sunday following a long battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 74. Sgt Gary Beikirch was a hero who didn’t realize he was a hero until he was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1973. When he finally did, he dedicated his life to “encouraging and inspiring generations of Americans.”

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“Gary was a true American hero. He displayed extraordinary courage on the battlefields of Vietnam and dedicated his life to encouraging and inspiring generations of Americans. As a counselor and man of deep faith, Gary touched and changed thousands of lives. The impact of his uplifting influence will be felt for years to come as his goodness lives on in those who know him. We offer our deepest sympathies to his family as they, together with America and the Medal of Honor community, grieve an amazing man.”

National Medal of Honor Museum

April 1, 1970

Beikirch was a medic for Detachment B-24 of the 5th Special Forces Group. Dak Seang was a remote Montagnard village. Many of the Monagnard villagers (called Strikers) were men that the Green Berets trained.

Coming to, he urged the medic to help him up, where his Montagnard medics carried him from place to place in the compound. He then would help them get to the aid station. His love for and loyalty to his Montagnard partners was reciprocated. One of his tribesmen medics,  Dao, covered Beikirch with his own body at one point during the shelling getting killed in the process. He was just 15 years old.

Steve Balestrieri at SOFREP

His MOH citation reads in part:

The allied defenders suffered a number of casualties as a result of an intense, devastating attack launched by the enemy from well-concealed positions surrounding the camp. Sgt. Beikirch, with complete disregard for his personal safety, moved unhesitatingly through the withering enemy fire to his fallen comrades, applied first aid to their wounds, and assisted them to the medical aid station.

When informed that a seriously injured American officer was lying in an exposed position, Sgt. Beikirch ran immediately through the hail of fire. Although he was wounded seriously by fragments from an exploding enemy mortar shell, Sgt. Beikirch carried the officer to a medical aid station. Ignoring his own serious injuries, Sgt. Beikirch left the relative safety of the medical bunker to search for and evacuate other men who had been injured. He was again wounded as he dragged a critically injured Vietnamese soldier to the medical bunker while simultaneously applying mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to sustain his life.

Sgt. Beikirch again refused treatment and continued his search for other casualties until he collapsed. Only then did he permit himself to be treated. Sgt. Beikirch’s complete devotion to the welfare of his comrades, at the risk of his life, is in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflects great credit on him, his unit, and the US Army.

from Beikirch’s MOH citation
October 15, 1973, Gary Beikirch received the Medal of Honor from then President Richard Nixon

When he returned from the war, he tried to go to college, but with the treatment of Vietnam veterans at the time being called “baby killers” and spat on, he couldn’t take it. He let his hair grow long and moved into a cave in the mountains of New Hampshire. When he went into town for supplies, he was told to wait for a phone call — that was the call that let him know he would be a recipient of the Medal of Honor. Though the award brought back all the unpleasant memories of the war, he finally came to grips with it. (Sofrep)

Following his discharge from Army service in 1971, Beikirch returned to college. He received ordination from White Mountain Seminary (Lancaster, New Hampshire); a bachelor’s degree in Sociology-Psychology from the University of New Hampshire (Durham, New Hampshire); and a master’s in Education in Counseling from the State University of New York, Brockport. He used this education as a veterans’ counselor and worked as a guidance counselor for middle schoolers in the Rochester, New York, region.

He is survived by his wife, Loreen, five children, and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

Congressional Medal of Honor Society


Featured photo: YouTube screenshot of Gary Beikirch

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