Medal of Honor Recipient: "We'll be Praying for Him and His Family"

Gary Beikirch shares his experience with WBEN and advice for David Bellavia

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(WBEN) - Rochester native Gary Beikirch was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1973 for his heroic actions in Vietnam. 

On April 1, 1970, with disregard for his personal safety, Beikirch moved through the enemy fire to apply first aid to his fallen comrades and assisted them to a medical-aid station. Beikirch did this multiple times during battle, leaving the relative safety of the medical bunker and ignoring his own wounds to help others. He only accepted medical care once he collapsed, and even then he continued to fire his weapon from his stretcher until losing consciousness.

For that, he was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Nixon. On Wednesday, he told WBEN the award comes with a heavy sense of responsibility, and gave insight in to what David Bellavia may be feeling as he awaits his award.

"When someone is awarded the Medal of Honor, they do an act that is selfless, they do it out of sacrifice, they do it out of love for someone else other than themselves," Beikirch said. "They don't do it because they're some big Rambo kind of guy, you do it because you care for somebody else more than yourself." 

"Then after that, to be all the sudden recognized and pulled out of your team, pulled out of everyone else that was in that battle and someone is saying 'You above all else are special.' That's a dilemna. That's a battle that all of us wearing the Medal of Honor have to fight."

Beikirch said he was closed off to society for many years because of what he saw during the war and how he was treated when he came home.

"I lived in a cave fro two years... trying to forget about Vietnam," Beikirch said. "Now they were going to give me a medal for something that I was trying to forget." 

After President Nixon awarded him the medal, Beikirch said he didn't look at it for about seven years. He called it a difficult process.

Beikirch said that experience was on his mind when he heard that Bellavia would be awarded the same medal.

"My wife and I immediately looked at each other and we just said, 'We'll be praying for him and his family."

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