|Vietnam Veterans of America|
|Membership Notes, July/August 2021|
ROCHESTER, NEW YORK, CHAPTER 20
Gary Beikirch Park
Medal of Honor recipient Gary Beikirch, one of Vietnam Veterans of America’s earliest leaders, received another honor on May 13 when Monroe County, New York, dedicated a section of Rochester’s Highland Park in his honor.
“Gary Beikirch is an American hero in every sense,” County Executive Adam Bello said during the dedication ceremonies of the new Gary Beikirch Memorial Park. “His selfless act on behalf of our country will live on forever in the hearts and minds of our community, and all those who have gotten to know Gary throughout his life.” Renaming the portion of the park near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial of Greater Rochester in his honor, Bello said, “is a perfect tribute to this incredible man who has dedicated his life to Monroe County and the United States.”
Born and raised in Rochester, Gary Beikirch joined the Army in 1967, volunteered for Special Forces, and arrived in Vietnam in July 1969 as a medic with a Green Beret A-Team in a remote Montagnard village in the Central Highlands. On April 1, 1970, an NVA force numbering in the thousands launched a surprise human-wave attack on the camp. During the fighting Beikirch was wounded three times, including a spinal cord injury that knocked him unconscious while tending to a wounded buddy. After regaining consciousness, he carried on fighting, and—without the use of temporarily paralyzed legs—helped rescue wounded Americans and Montagnards and treat them before being medevaced out of the fight.
Soon after Vietnam Veterans of America was founded in 1978, Gary Beikirch joined the fledgling organization and helped form Rochester Chapter 20. He served as the chapter’s first president, was elected the first president of VVA’s New York State Council, and served a term on the National Board of Directors.
During the early eighties, Beikirch ran Rochester’s pioneering Veterans Outreach Center and served as a team counselor there. In 2013 he retired after twenty-five years as a counselor at Arcadia Middle School in his hometown. Since his retirement Gary Beikirch has traveled the country speaking to students, church groups, veterans, and others about overcoming adversity through faith and what he has called “loving others more than myself.”
It is “my hope,” Beikirch said at the park dedication, “that as people enter this park and walk among the heroes who are honored and remembered here that they will hear each hero say to them, ‘Live your life believing that there is something greater in life than me. Live your life caring for others, loving others.’ ”
The 150-acre Highland Park, dedicated in 1888, was designed by the famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Chapter 20 was the driving force behind the park’s 2.5-acre Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which was dedicated in 1996. Its many features include a grove of 3,401 trees honoring Medal of Honor recipients. The Chapter 20 Honor Guard participated in the Gary Beikirch Memorial Park dedication ceremonies.
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