Avalon Chronicles #97: "All Day Church"
by Allen B. Clark firstname.lastname@example.org
Linda and I awakened at zero dark thirty (military time) on Tuesday April 16, 2019 to drive to Irving, Texas for an unforgettable day. We met at 7:45 AM our "tour guide and chauffeur" Jeremy Berlin, manager of the Sheraton DFW hotel, and Gary Beikirch and his spouse Lolly for a day that would end fifteen hours later. Gary Beikirch is Chaplain of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society and a Recipient of his Medal of Honor in 1973 from President Richard Nixon for his heroic actions on April 1, 1970 at Dak Seang Special Forces camp near the Tri-Border area where South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos touch boundaries. Avalon Chronicles #93: "From Cave Man to Man of God" details our first meeting in Oct. 2018 and describes his remarkable story. His autobiography will be published in 2020 by Multnomah Press of Oregon.
Our first stop that day was for us both to present to 150 football players at Grapevine High School. Gary, a very humble, modest, and unassuming war hero, kicked off the visit by focusing very distinctly in his talk on his gratitude for Deo, a 15 year old Montagnard in the camp. He had solidified a relationship with the unschooled and unsophisticated young man when they bonded and committed to "watch each other's back." That bore results in the attack when Deo and another Montagnard literally carried him, wounded himself three times, from wounded to wounded to administer first aid. Gary wrote in his tract; "April 1, 1970...I can still hear the screams, the explosions, the gunfire." A "human wave" attack by three North Vietnamese Army regiments was launched on the camp's 12 American Special Forces "A" team members, supported by their Montagnard fighters. At one point a massive barrage caused Deo to literally cover Gary to protect him and Deo was killed. Gary related, "One has never lived until one has almost died."
Gary will never forget that sacrifice on the battlefield of that young Montagnard, unheralded in history, but always vividly in the heart and soul of Gary until our Lord takes him to Heaven. Another unforgettable subject on which Gary focused was not just secular "success" in our lives, but focusing on a life that is defined by the intangibility of "significance."
At this high school, a junior, with beard and a thick head of hair, approached me to indicate he was guiding himself to gain admission to West Point. I reminded him that an old saying adhered to at West Point was "no horse, no wife, and no mustache." He said he was prepared especially for the prohibition of the facial and excessive head hair! I told him the first day as a New Cadet the barber will ask him, "How much of your hair would you like to keep? You will say, 'All of it.'" The barber will sweep his hair off the floor and hand it to him!"
Our second stop was at Haltom City High School, where we spoke to leaders in the Student Council and the Junior Reserve Officers Training program. At both schools I began my talk by sitting without saying anything in a chair with arms and removing both my artificial legs and putting them back on. There was total silence with the audience. I can assume there was an especial effect by my doing this in front of athletes! Former professional NBA professional basketball players Morlon Wylie and Willie Davis also participated at the schools.
The school programs are sponsored by Tribute to Valor, a North Texas-based student outreach effort to expose the character-building attributes of courage, integrity, sacrifice, patriotism, commitment, and citizenship with presentations by Medal of Honor Recipients. A program focus is for the students to ask the question, "Who Am I?" My good friend Jim Palmersheim, American Airlines Captain and pilot, is the prime mover on the program. Today there are only 71 living Medal of Honor Recipients. Many received the Medal posthumously.
Our escort, Jeremy Berlin, related the story from nine years ago at a time when he and his wife had been childless for five years and they were approached by a total stranger at a church function. He prophesied to them that by the end of that year, only four months away, that they would have a son, whose name would be Elijah. On the last day of the year a son, in fulfillment of the prophecy, was in fact adopted by them, having been introduced to them for adoption after the prophecy was delivered.
Jeremy said, "A year later while their son Illiah was reading his Russian Bible, they came across a reference to the prophet Elijah. The son said, 'That's me' and we found out that his Russian name translated to ELIJAH!" Only in God's world! That son, now 20, embarking on his own career and leaving home, was the recipient of a prayer by all of us in the SUV for his safety and direction. Jeremy later crossed paths with the prophecy-giver, who had no recollection of having related the words!
In the course of the day Linda sat in the back seat with Lolly and Gary. She recollects Lolly relating that she felt it was a God-spoken Word that she followed through on to marry Gary 44 years ago, when they met in New Hampshire. One of the most striking anecdotes Linda heard from Gary was in a library after the war, when he experienced first hand the vilification of us Vietnam veterans when fellow students would come by his desk and sweep his books onto the floor! He also suffered the humiliation after the war of being spat upon by fellow Americans because he was a Vietnam veteran! For 33 years the gracious Gary was a teacher/counselor at a middle school, where he poured his maturity, wisdom and kindness into the students to help them weave through the minefields of youth. His current day efforts continue that service to America's young people.
The day progressed with a West Point Society gathering with General Dave Petraeus, a prominent West Point graduate, scholar, combat leader, and former CIA Director as the guest. The evening consisted of presentation of the LT. COL. James "Maggie" Megellas (102 years young and present that night) annual award by the America's Future Series (headed by another friend David Hamilton) to Ross Perot, Jr. for his extraordinary contributions in the varied arenas of business endeavors, philanthropy, and service to country as an Air Force officer. The emotional evening program highlighted the service to the cause of freedom and security of our military, veterans, law enforcement, and first responders. At least one Gold Star parent and widows of police officers were in attendance. Noted were several attendees, who departed the room with expressions of distinct emotion (ie. tears), some of which were my own.
It was a day when Linda commented, "I feel as if I have been in church all day." Amen.