Blaze of Light
The Inspiring True Story of Green Beret Medic Gary Beikirch, Medal of Honor Recipient
WaterBrook, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 2020, 272 pages
Book Review published on: April 10, 2020
Although the Vietnam War ended forty-five years ago, the service, valor, and sacrifices of individuals who served in Vietnam deserve to be honored and remembered. Like many veterans of our Nation’s wars, Gary Beikirch tried to put his experiences in Vietnam behind him, but the words inscribed on a plaque over the entrance to his Special Forces “team house” in Camp A-245, Dak Seang, South Vietnam, continued to haunt him long after he physically left the jungle. “To really live, you must die. To those who fight for it, life has meaning the protected will never know.”
Blaze of Light: The Inspiring True Story of Green Beret Medic Gary Beikirch, Medal of Honor Recipient, written by New York Times best-selling author and coauthor Marcus Brotherton, is an inspiring true story about the life of Gary Beikirch, a Special Forces medic and recipient of the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of Dak Seang in 1970. More than just another story about a distant battle, Brotherton balances the use of personal interviews, historical records, after action reports, and numerous other sources to provide the context of Special Forces medical training and operations in Vietnam and the physical, emotional, and spiritual battles waged by many returning veterans dealing with the effects of the war. Easy to read, the book is organized chronologically into two parts. The first, “The War,” provides some background into Beikirch’s childhood, his entry into the U.S. Army, Special Forces training, and the operations of Special Forces Detachment Alpha (A-245), 5th Special Forces Group, in South Vietnam’s Kon Tum Province. “The Cave” describes Beikirch’s recovery from his physical wounds and experiences in Ward 9B, Valley Forge General Hospital, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania; his endless fight to heal the scars of his mind; his search for faith; and his unconventional journey to reintegrate into society.
Blaze of Light draws readers in and keeps them until the finish. The detailed first-hand account of the vicious Battle of Dak Seang puts readers in the middle of the hellish close combat environment where twelve Americans and four hundred Montagnard soldiers (Civilian Irregular Defense Group) valiantly fought over ten thousand enemy soldiers. Within this chaos, Beikirch treats and cares for the wounded, until he succumbs to his injuries and is evacuated. The last quarter of the book, perhaps the most important, recounts Beikirch’s troublesome journey to lead a productive and meaningful life, and provides insight into the spirit and resilience of a man who rose above adversity to find solace, faith, and eventually forgiveness in a cave in the northern Appalachian Mountains. Brotherton complements the narrative of the book with twenty pages of helpful notes and a map of Vietnam showing the location of Dak Seang that aid in visualizing the battle.
I highly recommend Blaze of Light to both general readers and military professionals. This story is relevant today because many members of the military and civilians from various nations, returning or escaping from the stressful and horrific environments of war, may be suffering from operational stress injuries including posttraumatic stress disorder or moral injury. This story provides inspiration and hope.
Book Review written by: Lt. Col. Edward D. Jennings, U.S. Army, Retired, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas