I know Veterans Day was yesterday and I thought it was too late to write the post I've been thinking about. But, after reading Lunch-Time Thoughts today, I knew I had to write this.
In Andy's post, you will find out why the world sees Gary Beikirch as a hero. As one of just a handful of Medal of Honor recipients, he has earned the title. However, to me, he is a hero for another, seemingly less glorious, reason.
I remember the first time I saw Gary Beikirch. I was in the first grade and visiting the zoo with my family. While being entertained by the monkeys (who doesn't love the monkey exhibit?), I looked over and recognized one of my new classmates. She was enjoying the zoo with her parents that day. Average parents taking their kid to the zoo.
I remember being at their house for a sleep over. I'll never forgive Mrs. Beikirch for introducing me to the "midnight witching hour" concept. To this day, I get nervous at midnight! Mrs. Beikirch was fun and crazy. Mr. Beikirch was so calm and nice!
The Beikirch's were a nice family. A normal family. The fact that I was visiting the home of a hero recognized by the President himself was never mentioned. It was years before I knew what a great man my friend's father was.
By the time I found out that Gary Beikirch was a military hero, he was already a hero in my mind. Gary was there for me at a critical time in my life.
My parents separated when I was eleven years old and in the sixth grade. Back in the mid-80's in a Christian school, I didn't know a lot of people going through what our family was going through. I was ashamed, scared, and didn't quite know how to deal with it all.
Gary knew about our situation...and he cared. One day, when I just broke down into tears in class, Gary showed up "out of nowhere." He sat down and talked with me. I don't even remember what he said - I just remember the kindness and compassion in his eyes. When I was too afraid to tell my classmates my family was falling apart, Gary offered to do it for me. Gary prepared and paved the way for me to enter my new role as "kid from broken home" without teasing or questions from my peers.
And, for the next few years, he was there whenever I, my mom or my brothers needed to talk to someone who would listen. Someone who would care.
The interesting thing is, whenever I've heard Gary Beikirch's military story told, I've also heard many people speak up and say what he meant to them in their personal lives. How he cared for them. How he's listened. How he's helped.
Oh, yes, I'm thankful to Gary for his service to our country. He is a true hero.
But, he's my hero because...he cared.