Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Master Sergeant (Retired) Hank Beck Receives Long Overdue DSC

On Monday, 27 February 2017, MSG (Retired) Hank Beck’s was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) in an awards ceremony at the Pentagon, marking 50 years and two days after the event where then SP4 Beck, with the Recon Platoon of 2-327th Airborne Infantry of the 101st Airborne Division, earned this distinction. Picture at right: L-R: MAJ Denny Drewry from SFA Chapter 54 (Boston), Kevin Knapp, MSG (Ret) Hank Beck as he receives the Distinguished Service Cross, Ray Oden and Jim Hooker.

From an earlier article posted in the Orlando Sentinel, where Hank Beck was awarded the Silver Star:

On Feb. 25, 1967, Henry Beck and a handful of comrades in the Army's 101st Airborne Division dropped from a helicopter into the lethal jungle of South Vietnam. Beck, then 19, was part of a six-man reconnaissance team that quickly found itself under sniper fire. It was then that Beck took action that saved several lives. "He went to our right flank through a smoke grenade, went around to the sniper holes and killed both snipers," said Robert Karpuszka, a fellow soldier.

It has taken 45 years, but on Sunday, the government will officially declare Beck a hero. During a Veterans Day ceremony, the Deltona man will receive the Silver Star, one of the nation's highest military honors. U.S. Rep. Sandy Adams will present the award during a ceremony at VFW Post 8093 in DeBary. Beck, 64, said he's proud to receive the honor, but added: "This isn't only about me. It's about the guys I served with."

Karpuszka, of Pittsburgh, recalled that as soon as his unit landed in Binh Than province, "one of our point men was shot and killed." As another soldier was shot, Beck took the actions for which he would be honored. Then, according to the presidential commendation awarding him the Silver Star: "Upon returning to his team, he noticed an enemy machine gun crew that was engaging them. He again, without regard to his personal safety and at extreme personal risk, ran to the position and eliminated the threat with grenades and automatic rifle fire."

When the exhausted team returned to base, Beck heard some chatter that he might be recommended for a medal. But then the talk died away. "I never even thought about it," he said. He served two more combat tours and became a career soldier. After retiring from the military in 1985, he joined the Orange County Sheriff's Office, where he worked until 2007 as a deputy and watch commander.

In 2010, he reunited with some men from the 101st Airborne who said they were shocked that Beck had never been recognized for his valor. They suggested filing paperwork for one of the military's highest honors, Karpuszka said. "It took about a year for me to compile all the information" about the firefight, Beck said. Some of the information about the incident had only recently been declassified. "He saved lives that day," Karpuszka said. "Who knows what would've happened if he hadn't done what he did?"

Hank retired in 1985 as Team SGT for ODA-582, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and, conveniently his Team Leader then, is our current Chief of Staff of the US Army (CSA) General Mark Milley. The CSA hosted and awarded the DSC to Hank in the midst of Hank’s family, the four survivors of the six man HAWK 14 (Hank’s VN squad in the 2-327), Hank’s CSM from 2-327, several members of the current HAWK 14 (of 2-237), and assundry SFA members.

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