Image courtesy: U.S. Army
A few hours after a Medal of Honor hero helped America mark a New Year, I wrote that 2011 is off to a good start. While Staff Sgt. Sal Giunta's stirring moment was undoubtedly positive for a nation at war, recent developments in Afghanistan, where Giunta served with such valor, show that my statement was only correct in part.
The 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), based on the Kentucky-Tennessee border at Fort Campbell, is making extraordinary sacrifices in Afghanistan. From brave paratroopers like Sgt. Mark Foster to the six Screaming Eagles who tragically fell on December 12, the war in Afghanistan is bringing out the best in this Division of proud warriors. Yet as some Americans seemed to forget, judging by much of the soft, stale content that filled cable news for the last two weeks, Operation Enduring Freedom didn't pause for the holidays.
New Year's Eve was not a night of celebration for the 101st's 2nd Brigade Support Troop Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team. As the ball dropped in Times Square and millions of Americans around the country partied with family, friends, and strangers, Sgt. Michael Beckerman, pictured above, was out on patrol in Kandahar province, perhaps the most crucial region for coalition forces to secure during the drive to victory in Afghanistan. According to KSDK-TV, the 25-year-old Ste. Genevieve, Missouri native had been in the Army seven years, served previous tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and was very passionate about life.
"He was the type of person that you could look up to and respect. He loved his family. He loved his daughter. He loved his wife," said Rosie Weisbrod, a family friend.
According to KDSK's article, Sgt. Beckerman, an explosive ordnance disposal technician, was serving in the military with his wife, Spc. Margaretta Beckerman. Instead of continuing their honorable shoulder-to-shoulder journey, a wife is bidding her beloved husband and fellow warrior farewell. According to the Pentagon, Sgt. Michael Beckerman was killed on December 31 by an improvised explosive device planted by terrorists.
I have talked with several 101st Airborne paratroopers over the past year, and all have conveyed how deeply these losses affect troops and their families. In this tragic case, an American Soldier has become a Gold Star wife, and we cannot imagine her pain. We can only hope and pray for the well-being of Spc. Beckerman and the couple's daughter. In honor of brave fallen warriors like this Soldier's husband, the Screaming Eagles continue taking the fight to the enemy, while also showing compassion to those caught in the middle of the war al Qaeda terrorists started on September 11, 2001.
Pictured below is Capt. Charles Choi, a Queens, New York native who works with Task Force Med. On January 2, he took time to hand out toys to children at a Bagram Air Field hospital. Despite being deployed in a combat zone with needs of their own, 101st Airborne Division paratroopers with Company C, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, generously donated these helpful and entertaining items to Afghan kids who will treasure them.
The 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) lost many of its own in 2010, including Sgt. Michael Beckerman on the year's final day. Yet the Screaming Eagles continue to selflessly put the interests of others before their own. During the first days of another year at war, Americans should all be thankful to have these fine men and women on our side.
Image courtesy: Sgt. Grant Matthes