United States Marine Corps veteran Hershel “Woody” Williams
and Vietnam veteran Gary Beikirch have both been presented the Armed Service’s highest honor-the Congressional Medal of Honor.
“The medal that we wear symbolizes the thousands and thousands of men and women who daily sacrifice above and beyond,” said Beikirch.
The two recently came to the Judd Kendall VFW to tell Naperville North students about their experiences during war. Woody Williams enlisted in the marines in 1943 when he was 19 years old. He was one of the 70,000 troops who fought in the historic Battle of Iwo Jima, and one of the 27 who received the Congressional Medal of Honor for their efforts.
“13 of us were blessed enough that we got to come home. We lived. The others didn’t,” said Williams.
22 years after World War II ended, Gary Beikirch enlisted as an army medic during the Vietnam War. On April 1, 1970, he was shot several times and continued to give care to others. But the bullets didn’t leave the lasting damage.
“I visited a college campus in 1971 and was spit on,” said Beikirch. “That’s what hurt me. That was what gave me most of the difficulties and the problems that I had had with the whole Vietnam experience was the homecoming.
Today he speaks about the war to groups around the country. Naperville North students in the audience took different parts of his presentation to heart.
“I learned that living a significant life is better than leadning a successful life and that I can really impact someone else’s life at any age not just as an adult,” said Garrett Dorr, a Freshman at Naperville North High School.
Williams and Beikirch say the people who impacted them the most were the men they served with.
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