VA Western New York Healthcare System
Medal of Honor Recipient Gary Beikirch
Medal of Honor Recipient Gary Beikirch Offers Thoughts on Life, Death and People
VA Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program staff welcomed Medal of Honor Recipient Gary Beikirch at VA Western New York Healthcare System, Buffalo, on March 6. Mr. Beikirch provided an intimate look into his incredible experiences and personal relationships as a Special Forces medic in Vietnam, and later, as a struggling Veteran living in a cave and trying to reintegrate “back into the world.” Gary’s inspiring and harrowing story took the attentive Veteran and staff audience from tears to laughter. His reflection on Dale, his 15-year old Montagnard helper, guide, and comrade in arms, was spell-binding, as Dale “pulled me for hours around the battlefield helping others, and he fell in to me after a mortar round came in, shielding me from the blast. He died right there in my arms.”
Even though Gary he lived in a cave for two years in the mountains of New Hampshire, he said never felt homeless, and that he “had everything he needed.” He found comfort and peace through isolation and not caring about the past. Later, it was ultimately notes and a photo left by a local Lancaster, New Hampshire woman at the post office that eventually led to love. It was love that eventually lured him out of his comfortable wilderness surroundings. After one date, they decided to get married. They have been married for over 40 years with 3 children and 8 grandchildren.
Gary’s words were also uplifting, reflecting that the Medal of Honor award is “not about me and what I did, it’s about everyone who fought for ideals and things greater than themselves. “
Later in his conversation with the audience, Gary reflected on the things that matter most, “the people in our lives.” He said that “the material things, chasing the $100,000 salary and the big house are things that simply don’t matter. People matter.” To build a real life, “you need to do things of substance and achievement to help other people around you.” When asked about VA now versus VA when he mustered out of the service in 1971, Gary was pensive yet reflective, carefully choosing his words. “I can’t speak for what happened out west recently with VA, but I think the people of Western New York working for the VA…they get it. They care.”