Heroic and Extraordinary: Two Medal of Honor Recipients To Speak at Memorial Day
This year’s Memorial Day Observance at The Wall will offer a chance for thousands of veterans and families to gather at The Wall and honor America’s fallen heroes. It will be held on May 25th at 1:00pm at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. As part of the ceremony, the United States Postal Service will dedicate the 2015 Medal of Honor: Vietnam Forever® Stamps. These stamps will honor those who distinguished themselves through “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty.”
The event is free and open to the public.
Of the millions of U.S. service members who served during the Vietnam War, only 258 were awarded the Medal of Honor. Most award recipients made the ultimate sacrifice, giving their lives while performing the courageous acts for which they were later honored.
For this year’s ceremony, nearly a dozen Medal of Honor recipients are expected to be in attendance, including two who will take on speaking roles at the event.
Medal of Honor Recipient Col. Jack H. Jacobs, USA (Ret.) will be the Keynote Speaker at this year’s Memorial Day Observance.
Col. Jacobs spent two tours in Vietnam serving as an adviser to infantry units in the South Vietnamese army. In March of 1968, as his battalion was coming under heavy fire from the Viet Cong, Col. Jacobs called for and directed air strikes against enemy positions. Despite being badly wounded, Col. Jacobs organized a defensive perimeter. With no regard for his own safety, he returned repeatedly to the ambushed area to evacuate the wounded, and drove off Viet Cong squads three times. Overall, his heroic actions saved the lives of one U.S. adviser and 13 allied soldiers.
He says, “On Memorial Day, I think about the same thing I think about every day: my fellow soldiers who died,and all the Americans in previous wars who gave their lives to be free.”
Medal of Honor Recipient Sgt. Gary Beikirch will give the invocation. Sgt. Beikirch got orders to service in Vietnam in 1969. He served bravely with the 5th Special Forces group, along with a twelve man team, in the Kon Tum highlands protecting a village of tribesmen.
On April 1, 1970, North Vietnamese forces launched a devastating surprise attack in a remote village of Montagnard, Dak Seang, near the Laotian border. After hearing a call for a medic, Beikirch left the safety of the medical aid station and ran through the hail of fire to treat a seriously injured American officer. He would continue to move unhesitating through enemy fire to help his comrades. Being badly wounded and unable to walk, Beikirch enlisted help from his local assistants, who carried him around the compound so he could continue to treat the wounded. Bleeding heavily and barely conscious, he moved from one wounded combat to the next, until he passed out. Beikirch would selflessly rescue numerous American and allied casualties without regard to his personal safety or the wounds he sustained in the process.
About the highest military decoration, Beikrich says, “This medal is about men and women who value something so strongly, they’d be willing to die for it, and they’d be willing to defend our country for it, and so they put on the uniform.”
Other speakers to include Jan Scruggs, founder of The Wall and President of VVMF. The emcee for the ceremony will be Jim Knotts, CEO of VVMF.
Communications Intern Kalli McCoy contributed to this blog.