Continuing a club tradition since 1993, we held our Veterans Day Observance on November 4. Why a week early? Because the program committee had secured a Medal of Honor recipient as our speaker and that is when he was available. The program committee Ira Marshall, Jim Jeisel, Roger Malech, Penny Noel, Elle Scott, and Brian Sullivan put together a great program.
 
Gary B. Beikirch served as a combat medic with the Army's 5th Special Forces Group in Vietnam and recieved the Medal of Honor for exposing himself to intense fire in order to rescue and treat the wounded, and for continuing to provide medical care despite his own serious wounds during a battle at Dak Seang Camp. This video gives more details on his service.
 
Unfortunately, Beikirch was unable to attend the meeting because of some last minute medical issues. However, he sent his very inspiring message which was delivered by President Craig van Keulen in his place. His message was very relevant to today and also supports the Rotary motto of Service above Self. The entire message is below.
Rotary Message
Nov 4
 
It is important for me to begin by apologizing for not being able to be present with you today at a time that we remember and honor the men and women who serve in our military.  As a Medal of Honor recipient, it has always been an honor for me to be asked to represent our veterans at events and celebrations all across the country.
 
However, it has always amazed me how that decisions and actions that one makes during a period of one or two days can have such a significant impact on the rest of your life.  Those two days were a mere moment in the 73 years that I have lived, yet it is those two days that most people want to hear about rather than the 33 years I spent as a middle school counselor.  Actually, there were plenty of days during that 33 years that, I believe, were much worse than any battle or firefight I fought in Vietnam.  As a matter of fact, after a couple of months of working with middle schoolers I discovered that Vietnam was good training for working with middle schoolers...as both experiences taught me a lot about fears...about facing uncertainty...and about living.
 
What I would like to share with you is a few things I have learned from war and from working with young people about living...about facing the uncertainty we often encounter in life...and the fear that accompanies it.
 
2020 has certainly been a year with unexpected events that have filled all of our lives with uncertainty and fears.  Earlier this year my wife and I were watching a news story of a father trying to explain to his young son why he could not return to school...why he could not see his friends...and why everyone had to wear masks.  It was obvious that he was having a hard time trying to communicate to his son so many things that many of us did not even understand.  Finally, he just said, “Well son, one day you will be able to look back and say to your children and grandchildren, that we survived the COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020.”  As I heard the father speak the word that caught my attention was survived”.  I immediately thought of all the survival courses that I had taken both in and out of the military.  I thought of “survivors” of accidents and natural disasters.
 
I thought of the many times when people learn that after the war I spent almost 2 years in a cave, and they ask, “How did you survive?”  To survive means many different things to different people...but my answer to that question about surviving in the cave...has always been...  “I did not go into the cave to survive.  I went into the cave to try and remember how to live.”  I believe there is a difference between “surviving” and “living”.  The war in Vietnam taught me that.
 
While I was in the cave I remembered that during my first few days at a remote jungle camp in the Highlands of Vietnam I asked a young Montagnard (mountain-yard) boy to “teach me how to survive” in the jungle.  I told him I was afraid of snakes, tigers, and all the other unknowns that were there.  He smiled and said, “I don’t want to teach you how to survive in the jungle.  The jungle provides us with life.  We live by what we get from the jungle.  I want to teach you how to live in the jungle.”
 
His answer was surprising to me at the time...but through the years it has given me encouragement and hope as I have faced many challenges in life.  For the next year in the jungle he taught me how to “live” in the midst of something that I had been afraid of.  He told me that my fears would narrow my focus.  If I feared snakes...whenever I went into the jungle...everywhere I looked...snakes would be all that I would see...whether they were really there or not.  He taught me how to look beyond what I feared... what was unknown...and find things that could that could give me life...things fears might cause me to miss.
 
During that year he and the entire tribe taught me that in the midst of something terrifying and threatening...in the midst of a jungle filled with so many unknowns...in the midst of a devastating war... that by working together they could create a village.  In that jungle they had created a place where each of them could not just “survive”...but each of them could live.  Each could live without want. Live without fear. Live by helping each other.  Each member of that tribe could very easily “survive” ALONE out in the jungle.  But their goal was more than survival of just one person.  Their goal was to live.  Live as a family.  Live as a village.  Live as a people...caring for one another.
 
The current pandemic has created a sense of “unknown” for many and caused many to fear the uncertainty of what will be happening tomorrow...what will be happening next month...wondering when will it end?  As we faced these uncertainties and fears we, unfortunately, saw many caught up in the struggle to “survive” as hoarding of items became a common occurrence around the country.  The motivation of many became, I need this to survive!”
 
As sad as that was we also saw many examples of others who were able to look beyond “surviving”...look beyond their fears... and chose to live.  There were those in communities that helped to distribute needed items to “shut-ins”.  There were those who reached out to others to help them in their need.  There were those who realized that we have been given a very precious gift...a gift of life.  A gift that is meant for something more than just “surviving and looking out for myself”.  It is a gift that is meant to be focused on “living”...focused on thinking of others...reaching out...caring...to be there when needed...to let others know that they are not alone.  
 
It is a precious gift that is meant to be shared.  There is a comfort and a strength that can overcome the fear of crisis and uncertainty when we know we are not alone.  Families, communities, our country can face this pandemic and any fear if we continue to face it together...caring for one another.  During this difficult time of uncertainty may each of us remember “Life is more than “surviving”.
May each of us choose to LIVE.
May God bless you and continue to bless this country.