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Faith, Fellowship and Food: Medal of Honor Recipient speaks at Fort Bragg’s National Prayer Breakfast

Faith, Fellowship and Food: Medal of Honor Recipient speaks at Fort Bragg’s National Prayer Breakfast

Story by SPC ShaTyra Reed on 02/18/2019

FORT BRAGG, N.C. “To really live, you must almost die. To those who fight for it, life has a meaning the protected will never know.”

This was the message Medal of Honor recipient retired Army Sgt. Gary Beikirch voiced to nearly 500 Soldiers, Family members and othersin the Fort Bragg community as they gathered during the installation’s annual National Prayer Breakfast at the Iron Mike Conference Center on Feb. 5.

The National Prayer Breakfast, which was known as the Presidential Prayer Breakfast until 1970, is a tradition dating back to 1953 and the Eisenhower Administration.

“Serving our nation in uniform is inherently dangerous and difficult,” said Maj. Gen. Brian Mckiernan, XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg deputy commanding general and host of this year’s prayer breakfast. “We ask our Soldiers to sacrifice an awful lot; potentially lay down their lives for mission or for their fellow Soldiers. The purpose of the National Prayer Breakfast is to give our service members the opportunity to pause, reflect and recommit themselves to their core values, the things that are important to them and tend to their spiritual needs with others to realize they’re not alone.”

Following prayers for the nation and the military, Chaplain (Col.) Randy Griffin, Fort Bragg garrison chaplain, introduced Beikirch. “Sgt. Beikirch is a man of faith and vision. His dependence on God has driven him to become the national spokesman that he is today,” Griffin said .

Beikirch received the Medal of Honor on Oct. 15, 1973 for his heroic actions as a Special Forces combat medic during the Vietnam War. He was assigned to 5th Special Forces Group, which was then based out of Fort Bragg.

Beikirch was awarded for his actions on Apr. 1, 1970, when he risked his own life to rescue wounded Soldiers during a North Vietnamese attack on Camp Dak Seang, KonTum Province, Vietnam..

Through his own spiritual anecdotes, Beikirch shared a life lesson with the audience. That life lesson was the importance of having a vision for one’s life.

“When I talk about a vision,” Beikirch said, “I am not talking about something that’s a dream, I’m not talking about a personal goal that you established for yourself. The vision I am talking about is formed as you go through the battles of life.”

Beikirch told the audience his greatest battle was not fighting 10,000 enemies. The greatest battle for him was fighting death. Trying to overcome death, Beikirch said, he used every weapon and every talent he learned in training for Special Forces to fight the “hand-to-hand combat he shared with death.”

Laying in a hospital bed, then 24-year-old Beikirch asked himself, “‘how did I get here? This is not my vision, this is not what I was after, this is not what I was expecting.'”

“I would go to that place inside me where I used to go to find the strength and will power and the endurance to go one more mile, one more step, but it was empty,” he said. “I couldn’t find it anymore. It died at the hands of death. I had nothing to face the reality.”

One day, things changed for Beikirch. That was the day that transformed Beikirch’s vision. The touch of someone’s hand on his shoulder woke Beikirch from his sleep. When he opened his eyes, he saw an Army chaplain. The chaplain told Beikirch that he prayed over him every day while he slept.

The chaplain asked Beikirch to pray with him. Even though Beikirch didn’t know how to pray or who to pray to, the chaplain assured him that God knows how to listen.

“With all that was left of me, which wasn’t much, I made this simple prayer to God, God if you’re real, I need you, I have nothing left,'” Beikirch said.

Something happened with that simple prayer, something that would change Beikirch’s life.

“My courage failed,” he said, “but my faith was born. It was real and it was more real and more powerful than the death I was battling.”

He concluded his speech with a simple prayer for the audience. “On this day of prayer, it is my prayer that God will be your vision and the knowledge of His love for you will be your strength and your comfort. No matter where life takes you, no matter what battles you may face, you will be able to possess a vision that will strengthen you and guide you through the battles that you may face and though the storms will undoubtly come your way.”

As the guest speaker of the 2019 Fort Bragg National Prayer breakfast, Beikirch left the audience with a message and a prayer coinciding with this year’s theme, Investing in Hope: Transforming our Nation Through Prayer!

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