Medal of Honor recipient Gary Beikirch: Coronavirus spurring Americans to truly live for others

Medal of Honor program provides path for recipients to give back

The Medal of Honor Character Development Program teaches lessons burnished in battle; Catherine Herridge has the details.

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On behalf of my fellow Medal of Honor recipients, I want all Americans to know that you are in our thoughts and prayers during this serious situation that we are all facing together.

There are so many uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 virus. It seems that closing businesses and schools, social distancing, isolation, quarantines and a plunging stock market instantly became part of our “new normal” around the world.

We recently watched a news report about a father trying to provide hope to his children by telling them how they will be able to look back and say, “…we survived the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020.”


The word that caught my attention was “survived.” I thought about the many survival courses I have taken. I thought of those who “survive” accidents and natural disasters. And, I thought of the many times people ask how I survived almost two years in a cave after returning from Vietnam.

There is a difference between “surviving” and “living.” I did not go into a cave to “survive.” I went into the cave to try and remember how to “live.”

While in that cave, I reflected on my first few days at a remote jungle camp in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. Awestruck by the dense and unforgiving jungle, I asked a young Montagnard boy to teach me how to “survive.” I wanted to thrive in my new surroundings, not crippled by my fear of the “unknowns” lurking within the triple canopy.

Appreciative of my willingness to learn, the young Montagnard boy 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.”

Medal of Honor recipient Gary Beikirch and his wife Loreen Beikirch.

His powerful response instantly changed my mindset and has served as an inspirational handrail for me over the years, giving me encouragement and hope to face many challenges in life.

As we go through this crisis, I am comforted by the thought that we are not going through this alone. You should be as well.   

For the next year, the young Montagnard boy taught me how to see and leverage the “gifts of life” all around me in the jungle. Most of all, he taught me something that enabled his village to thrive in the midst of chaos — that by working together we can create a place, a community, where everyone lives together without want and without fear.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic is creating a “cave” situation for our country. Fear of the virus is causing some people to go into “survival mode” and forget that all Americans, and the world, is in this fight together.

Sadly, we are seeing scores of Americans that feel, “I NEED this to survive!” and feel their own “survival” is more important than the greater good.

However, there are even more examples of Americans who look beyond “surviving” and choose to “live” and serve others during this unprecedented time in human history.

One small restaurant, famous for macaroni and cheese, closed due to the virus and is now providing free bowls of macaroni and cheese, and other critical supplies, to their fellow citizens in need.

We’ve also seen major restaurant chains, like Chick-fil-A and McDonald’s, provide free meals to health care workers, and other first responders, that are literally on the front lines of battling the deadly disease.

Moreover, veterans and students are creating networks across the nation to assist the elderly and other at-risk populations. These Americans understand that to really “live” means to value and care for others. To really “live” is to assist others in need. To really “live” is making a difference in this world whenever possible.

As we go through this crisis, I am comforted by the thought that we are not going through this alone. You should be as well.


As the COVID-19 global pandemic continues to spread, our hope and prayer is that all Americans will choose to “live” and think of others first. May each of us never forget that we are not going through this alone. We have each other and we have a God who loves us and will always be there.

Americans must draw strength from each other now more than ever. Together, we can do more than “survive, we can “live.”


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