ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A local veteran’s legacy cemented in Rochester today.
Officials dedicated a piece of Highland Park to Gary Beikirch on Thursday. Beikirch was a special forces medic who won the Congressional Medal of Honor 50 years ago for his heroism during the Vietnam War.
“It is my hope that in the future, someone will walk across Highland Avenue on their way into this beautiful park with their kids to enjoy the day,” Director of Monroe County Veterans Service Agency Nick Stefanovic said, “see the sign, look to their children and say, ‘let me teach you about Beikirch and what he stood for.'”
The area, commonly referred to as Highland Park South, encompasses the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the future location of the War on Terror Memorial. The measure to rename this portion of Highland Park was unanimously passed by the Monroe County Legislature at its March meeting.
“If all Gary had done with his life was in those hours of bravery when he was 23, he would still be a hero and a model for all of us — a man who stands as an example of the best that we can all become,” Monroe County Executive Adam Bello said.
Beikirch served in the Vietnam War as a medic with Company B of the 5th Special Forces Group, where he was stationed at Dak Seang Camp with Montagnard villagers and fighters in Kon Tum. On April 1, 1970 the camp was attacked by a larger North Vietnamese force. Beikirch fought back until he learned a fellow American was wounded and in an exposed position. While moving through enemy fire to reach him, a piece of shrapnel struck Gary in the back, partially paralyzing him. For the remainder of the battle, Gary was carried from position to position to administer aid to fellow wounded allies. Later in the fight, while giving a Montagnard fighter resuscitative mouth-to-mouth, he was wounded in the side and then shot in the stomach. Gary continued to fire his weapon and provide medical care from his stretcher until he was evacuated by helicopter. He would spend the next six months recovering at Valley Forge Medical Center.
“It is also my hope that as people enter this park and walk among the heroes that are honored and remembered here that they will hear each hero say to them… ‘There is a different way to live your life. Live your life believing that there is something greater in life than me. Live your life caring for others… loving others. Greater love has no one than this… that you would lay down your life for your friend,” Beikirch said in a statement.
On Oct. 15, 1973, Beikirch was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the United States Military’s highest decoration for service, for his actions at Dak Seang. He was also presented with the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Bronze Star Medal, two Purple Hearts and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.
Beikirch retired several years ago from the Greece Central School District after decades as a school guidance counselor.