1st Lt. Joseph Beezie (U.S. Army Reserve) was the featured speaker at Monday’s Veterans Day ceremony at Culver Academies. A 2006 graduate who recently returned from Afghanistan, Beezie is currently a first-year law student at Valparaiso University. His current military assignment is Company Executive Officer at Fort Sheridan, Ill.
Before starting his speech, Beezie said two of his 2006 classmates, 1st Lt. James McLaughlin and 1st Lt. Lane Pratt, had just recently returned to the United States after a nine-month deployment in Afghanistan. While they were not at Culver, he wanted to say, “Welcome home guys.”
Beezie said everyone has a mental image of what makes a hero. “For many of us, it is our parents, teachers, counselors, coworkers, family or friends. Today, we honor those heroes who have served this great nation as a member of the Armed Forces, called to serve on distant battlefields, thousands of miles from home. From the ‘Shot Heard around the World’ to the Argonne Forest to the Beaches of Normandy to the Iraqi desert and the mountains of Afghanistan, these Great Americans have always been ready to respond. I am proud to be part of this great tradition and I would like to tell every veteran standing here today, whether you served during war or peace, thank you. None of us could be here today without your sacrifice.”
He added that Americans not much older than the Culver students “have conducted themselves with honor under intense stress and in harsh environments. They patrol the streets of hostile lands, often only having the comfort of knowing their buddy will do anything to keep them safe,” he said. “There are servicemen stationed around the globe who today are providing medical care in war-torn nations; security for children to attend school, who are today provided with opportunities never before available to them. The men and women I have had the honor of knowing and serve with will always hold a very special place in my heart.”
He told the crowd about an incident where three of his friends were ambushed while on a good will mission in Afghanistan. One was wounded and the other two worked to pull him from the line of fire and provide medical care, endangering themselves to save their friend, before the rest of the unit could engage the enemy. Unfortunately, the injured soldier didn’t survive. “With total disregard to their own lives, they responded only to care for one another,” Beezie said. “My friends; they will remain in my heart as the greatest heroes I will ever have the honor of knowing.”
He challenged the students to find and remember their heroes, whether they are “your counselors, teachers, parents, brothers, sisters, friends; let their inspiration and experiences help guide you. When you have rough times or challenges in the years ahead, try and think of what they might do, what decisions might they have made in your position. And, remember, a hero doesn’t have to be someone with a patch on their arm.”
Culver Academies’ Veterans Day ceremony recognizes the sacrifices made by Culver alumni during times of war. Since 1924, Culver has recognized the sacrifices of American and Allied soldiers during World War I at 11 a.m. on November 11. The ceremony has changed very little since that original Legion Memorial Building dedication ceremony was conducted 89 years ago.