Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center
Medal of Honor recipient visits medical center
Medal of Honor recipient, Gary Beikirch, spent time Oct. 22 sharing his story and visiting with Veterans at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center as a way to honor their service to our country.
“I’m just an ordinary guy,” Beikirch said. “The medal is what is special. I received this for doing what I was trained to do. Those of us who wear this medal, wear it for all the men and women who served.”
Beikirch, an Army Veteran, was awarded the medal in October 1972 for displaying selfless acts of valor and saving several lives during his deployment to the Kontum Province of Vietnam in 1970. He is one of just 79 living recipients of the Medal of Honor – the highest military award bestowed upon service members by Congress.
Beikirch came to the hospital as part of The Citadel’s annual Leadership Day – a dedicated day of volunteerism and community outreach for more than 400 students at the school – and was accompanied by a couple dozen cadets, who spent time conversing with Veterans, handing out refreshments, and performing service projects around the facility. This was the second year that Citadel cadets brought a Medal of Honor recipient to the Charleston VAMC and it’s a tradition the military college hopes to continue.
According to Tyler Woolum, service learning and civic engagement coordinator for The Citadel’s Krause Center for Leadership and Ethics, Beikirch’s bravery and commitment to service was a major influence in the school’s decision to organize the Leadership Day four years ago.
“Mr. Beikirch has said that ‘in order to lead you first have to serve,’” explained Woolum. “We really took that to heart and built this program on that premise. That’s why it’s really great to have him here with us today, visiting with Veterans. It ties this all together – brings it full circle.”
Beikirch shook hands and mingled with Veterans in the hospital’s main lobby and then took a trip to 4B North to make special visits to patients there.
“It’s a humbling experience spending time with Veterans here,” he said. “But it’s also energizing. There’s a sense of comradery that comes from sharing this medal with those who know what it is to commit to something more important than themselves. I’m always happy to do it.”