Blaze of Light
The Inspiring True Story of Green Beret Medic Gary Beikirch, Medal of Honor Recipient
Mar 24, 2020 | 272 Pages
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Mar 24, 2020 | 272 Pages
About Blaze of Light
“What Gary Beikirch did to receive his medal is unforgettable—and the story of what he overcame afterward is as big and moving as they come.”—Gary Sinise
After dawn the siege began. It was April 1, 1970, and Army Green Beret medic Gary Beikirch knew the odds were stacked against their survival. Some 10,000 enemy soldiers sought to obliterate the twelve American Special Forces troops and 400 indigenous fighters who stood fast to defend 2,300 women and children inside the village of Dak Seang. For his valor and selflessness during the ruthless siege, Beikirch would be awarded a Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest and most prestigious military decoration.
But Gary returned home wounded in body, mind, and soul. To find himself again, Gary retreated to a cave in the mountains of New England, where a redemptive encounter with God allowed Gary to find peace.
New York Times best-selling author Marcus Brotherton chronicles the incredible true story of a person who changed from lost to found. Gripping and unforgettable, and written with a rich and vivid narrative voice, Blaze of Light will inspire you to answer hurt with ingenuity, to reach for faith, and to find clarity and peace within any season of storm.
“The Medal of Honor Society is comprised of a highly elite group of American heroes. What Gary Beikirch did to receive his medal is unforgettable—and the story of what he overcame afterward is as big and moving as they come.”—Gary Sinise, Oscar-nominated actor
“From the windblast of landing choppers to the sensory assault of close-quarters battle, Blaze of Light put me right in the middle of the steaming jungles of Vietnam. Gary Beikirch was grievously wounded and facing a ruthless enemy, and his selfless choices made him the rarest of war heroes—one whose valor is measured not in lives taken but in lives saved.”—Lynn Vincent, New York Times bestselling author of Indianapolis
“You will be blessed by this story of amazing courage and selflessness. What happened on April 1, 1970, at Camp Dak Seang in the Kontum Province of South Vietnam forever changed the life of Gary Beikirch. He is a true American hero—a man of humility, faith, and servant leadership. This story is so powerful it could change your life.”—Colonel Jim Coy (Ret.), 3rd SFG, Persian Gulf War
“Gary Beikirch’s lifelong trek has been an especially arduous and inspiring journey—a broken home; the war-ravaged jungles of southeast Asia; a desperate post-battle, edge-of-death encounter with God in a Pleiku hospital; and the lonely dark tunnel of PTSD—culminating in a mountainside cave where he finally found peace on every front. This hard-core warrior experienced tenderness and hope through the gracious pursuit of the Savior. Read Gary’s story, weep tears of joy, and know that his life and this book are for Christ’s honor!”—Stu Weber, pastor and author of Tender Warrior
“Those who have experienced battle say time expands. Seconds feel like minutes, and minutes and hours stretch into virtual time warps. Marcus Brotherton successfully illustrates such perception of time in his telling of Gary Beikirch’s harrowing story. Marcus propelled me into the darkness of impending doom with speed and precision while casting light on the humanity and bravery of the characters who inhabit the pages I blew through. This book left me thoroughly inspired and honored to have ‘met’ yet another hero who earned the Medal of Honor.”—Eric Blehm, New York Times bestselling author of Fearless, Legend, and The Only Thing Worth Dying For
“I was on the Nixon White House staff while Gary Beikirch was serving in Vietnam’s jungles. As the White House looked at the mega-issues of the war, we too easily lost sight of the incredible micro-moments of heroism displayed by Gary and others, which are so skillfully described by Marcus Brotherton. Marcus shows not only the intensity of the war in the compound where Gary fought but also the pathos in the soul of the warrior. This book sheds needed light in an age when many are trapped in the darkness of PTSD.”—Wallace Henley, former White House and congressional aide and coauthor of God and Churchill, with Sir Winston Churchill’s great-grandson Jonathan Sandys
About Marcus BrothertonMarcus Brotherton is a journalist and professional writer, known internationally for his literary collaborations with high-profile public figures, humanitarians, inspirational leaders, and military personnel. He is the author of the national bestsellers A Company of Heroes, We Who Are Alive and Remain, Shifty's War, and the coauthor of Call of Duty with Lieutenant Lynn "Buck" Compton.
BLAZE OF LIGHT Book Trailer
272 pages | Published by WaterBrook
On Sale Date: Mar 24, 2020
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Carton Quantity: 12
Sneak PeekRead the first chapter of Blaze of Light. For fans of Unbroken and Hacksaw Ridge comes the powerful true story of a Medal of Honor recipient who faced more than his fair share of battles—and overcame them through perseverance and faith. “What Gary Beikirch did to receive his medal is unforgettable—and the story of what he overcame afterward is as big and moving as they come.”—Gary Sinise After dawn the siege began. It was April 1, 1970, and Army Green Beret medic Gary Beikirch knew the odds were stacked against their survival. Some 10,000 enemy soldiers sought to obliterate the twelve American Special Forces troops and 400 indigenous fighters who stood fast to defend 2,300 women and children inside the village of Dak Seang. For his valor and selflessness during the ruthless siege, Beikirch would be awarded a Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest and most prestigious military decoration. But Gary returned home wounded in body, mind, and soul. To find himself again, Gary retreated to a cave in the mountains of New England, where a redemptive encounter with God allowed Gary to find peace. New York Times best-selling author Marcus Brotherton chronicles the incredible true story of a person who changed from lost to found. Gripping and unforgettable, and written with a rich and vivid narrative voice, Blaze of Light will inspire you to answer hurt with ingenuity, to reach for faith, and to find clarity and peace within any season of storm.
Press ReleaseFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contacts: Beverly Rykerd
“The Medal of Honor Society is comprised of a highly elite group of American heroes.
What Gary Beikirch did to receive his Medal is unforgettable—
and the story of what he overcame afterward is as big and moving as they come.”
—Oscar-nominated actor Gary Sinise
“Brotherton relates the story of Medal of Honor–recipient Gary Beikirch, who went from aimless teen to wounded soldier to man of faith, in this riveting biography…. This gripping story of courage, honor, and faith will appeal broadly, both to readers interested in war accounts as well as those seeking an affecting tale of recovery and redemption.” —Publishers Weekly
BLAZE OF LIGHT
By Marcus Brotherton
A WaterBrook Hardcover | On Sale 3/24/2020
April 1, 2020, marks the 50th anniversary of the battle that changed Green Beret medic Gary Beikirch’s life and earned him the military’s highest honor—the Medal of Honor. Today, he is one of only 80 living recipients of the Medal of Honor, and his remarkable story of going from the brokenness of battle to healing and hope is now being told in Blaze of Light by Marcus Brotherton (a WaterBrook Hardcover on sale 3/24/20).
New York Times bestselling author Brotherton does a masterful job of recounting Beikirch’s experiences as a medic in the jungles of the Central Highlands of Vietnam, where he established a deep bond with the local Montagnard people. Readers are transported to the dawn of April 1, 1970, when 10,000 enemy soldiers sought to obliterate the village of Dak Seang in a raging 38-day siege. While under fire, a seriously wounded and paralyzed Beikirch continued to provide medical care for his fellow soldiers until receiving emergency transport.
Physically damaged and confused, Beikirch’s return to an embittered U.S. was the beginning of a new battle. He would fight the pain of a wounded heart, soul, and spirit. He didn’t know it yet, but the emotional pain would prove more destructive than any of his physical wounds.
So he chose an extremely unlikely recovery plan—he went and lived inside a cave in the Northern Appalachians of New Hampshire for almost two years. Inside that cave, God healed Gary in profound ways. When the veteran came out, it was to go to Washington, DC, to receive the nation’s highest honor for acts of valor.
My story is God’s story,” says Beikirch. “This medal is not about me. This medal is about him. Without God’s grace, I wouldn’t have been able to survive Vietnam. Without his forgiveness in my life, I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself. Without his love, I wouldn’t have healed from my wounds. This medal is ultimately about him, and I wear it for his honor.”
Blaze of Light presents the story of a heroic American and a tale of redemption in line with Louis Zamperini (Unbroken) and Desmond Doss (Hacksaw Ridge). Like Zamperini, Beikirch went on to work with young people, spending 33 years as a middle school counselor. Today, he serves as the chaplain for the Medal of Honor Society. In addition to speaking to civic organizations, veterans groups, and churches, he travels the country teaching students what he learned about character development through the example of the Montagnard teenager who saved Beikirch’s life and sacrificed his own.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Marcus Brotherton is the New York Times bestselling author or coauthor of more than 25 books, including Tough as They Come with SSG Travis Mills and We Who Are Alive and Remain: Untold Stories from the Band of Brothers. He has won the Christopher Award for literature that “affirms the highest values of the human spirit.”
ABOUT GARY BEIKIRCH:
Beikirch is the chaplain of the Medal of Honor Society and a former United States Army Green Beret A-Team medic. Following the war, Biekirch graduated with a bachelor’s degree from White Mountain Seminary and became an ordained minister. He graduated with a second bachelor’s in psychology and sociology from the University of New Hampshire and received a master’s degree in educational counseling from the State University of New York (SUNY)–Brockport. He spent many years as a counselor in schools, hospitals, and prisons and with the Veterans Outreach Center. He is retired after a 33-year career as a middle school counselor.
In addition to the Medal of Honor, Beikirch has received the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the American and Vietnamese Airborne Wings, the Combat Medic Badge, the Good Conduct Medal, and the Vietnam Service and Campaign Medals. Beikirch and his wife, Lolly, have been married for 45 years and have three children and 14 grandchildren. They live in Greece, New York.
Q&A from Gary Beikirch
1. There was a time when you returned from Vietnam that you wanted to forget your experiences. Why is now the right time to remember and share your story?
Like many who experience the battles life throws at us, at one time I believed that the best way to deal with those hurts was to forget about them. However, while secluded in the mountains and caves of New Hampshire, I learned that “forgetting is not getting better.” Getting better is finding someone who is willing to come into those caves—someone who will listen to you, care for you, love you, and always be there for you. Getting better is finding someone who will share your hurt without judgment, who will commit to helping you rebuild what has been damaged and destroyed in your life. Getting better is finding someone who can encourage and help you look forward to tomorrow and all the possibilities that a new day brings.
For me, it was God who came into my cave and became the Healer for my hurt. It was my wife, Lolly, who has been the “hands and heart” of God and a part of my life for over 40 years. Together we have faced many more battles in life, but we have faced them together and with God’s love and grace have learned how to really “live” and not just “survive” through this journey called life.
After my recent battle with colon cancer, we decided that perhaps it was now time to share what we have learned, to share our story that no one should go through life alone and that there is a God who desires to walk with us through this life every step of the way.
2. You have dedicated Blaze of Light to “anyone who’s ever fought through a battle or sheltered in a cave.” What do you mean by that?
As I have shared my story over the years and explained my choice to hide in a cave from the hurts, guilt, and pain of war, people often want to hear more about the cave than about the war or the battle that resulted in my being awarded the Medal of Honor. At first, I was quite surprised about this; but over time I have come to realize that, though most people cannot relate to the battles of a war, everyone fights battles in their everyday life. Everyone experiences hurts, disappointments, and pain. Though people might not choose to hide away in the mountains of New Hampshire, they will find a “cave” to retreat to, a place to hide and forget. They will find a pattern of behavior and try to change the way they feel. People are intrigued by my experience in the cave because of their own experiences in “caves.” Their walls may not be made of granite, but
they are just as strong—walls of “shutting down,” not feeling, separating from others, drugs, and alcohol.
We dedicated Blaze of Light to “anyone who’s ever fought through a battle or sheltered in a cave,” because the message of our book is a universal message and not just for those who have been in the military and fought a war. It is a message for all who have fought the many battles we face in life.
3. This April will be the 50th anniversary of the battle. What stands out to you about that time? Has your perspective on it changed over time?
Over the past 50 years, my perspective of that day has changed dramatically, but that change has not come easily. For years the physical hurt, the emotional guilt of friends lost, and the destructive anger of hate controlled my thoughts, feelings, and behavior. I realized those destructive emotions would destroy my life if I could not get control of them. So I decided to “shut down” all feelings and not care about anybody or anything. However, not caring and not feeling is not a way to live. My relationship with my wife suffered; my relationship with my children suffered. I knew they were important to me. I knew I needed to love them and show them that I loved them, but I had “shut down.” I did not feel the hurt, the guilt, or the anger anymore, but neither did I feel love.
Thankfully, through the grace of God, the love of my wife, and the guidance of a trusted friend, I was able to work through the hurt, guilt, and anger and learn how to allow myself to feel again. Once I was able to work through those emotions, I found other emotions and memories of Vietnam. I was able to remember the love that existed among the Americans, the love and camaraderie we shared with the Montagnards, and the love that was shared with Deo, my 15-year-old bodyguard. With these new revelations, my memories and my perspective changed about that day.
What stands out to me about that day now is the power of love. I remember that village and those people as 2,300 people, who in the midst of the jungles of Vietnam and in the midst of a war were able to create a community of love. A community where everyone was committed to everyone, everyone depended upon each other, and everyone was family. That is what stands out to me now.
4. What does the Medal of Honor mean to you?
After receiving the Medal of Honor, I returned to the woods, put the Medal in my duffle bag, and never took it out again for seven years. I did not feel worthy to have it. I did not know how I was going to let this medal—something I could not accept—become a part of my life. After returning to the cave, I prayed and asked God for help. He led me to the book of Psalms, where I read, “Man that is in honor, and understands not...is like a beast that perishes” (Psalm 49:20). I realized then that I needed God to show me what it meant and why I was allowed to receive it.
Since that time, I have learned—as many of the recipients have—that the Medal of Honor is not about me or anything I have done. I only did what I was trained to do, what was my duty to do, what those standing next to me would have done and most often did do. However, there is an honor that goes with the Medal. The honor comes because this Medal is representative of something greater than one person or one act on one day. This Medal represents millions of men and women who have performed countless acts of sacrifice and love—every day since our country was formed—and who continue to do the same selfless acts even today.
The honor that comes with this Medal comes because this Medal conveys a message to all who see it: that there is a different way to live your life by caring for others more than for yourself.
Finally, for me the Medal of Honor is not about anything I have done; it is about what God has done. It is only because of His grace that I survived Vietnam, only because of His love and forgiveness that I was able to come out of the cave, and only because of His faithfulness to me, every day, that I have been able to survive life outside the cave. When I wear the Medal of Honor, I wear it for His Honor.
5. What do you hope readers of Blaze of Light get from your story?
When I first entered the village of Dak Seang, one of the first things each of us did was choose someone who would help us learn how to adapt to our new environment. I chose a 15-year-old Montagnard boy named Deo. When I chose him, I said, “Deo, I need you to teach me how to survive here in the jungle. I hate snakes and I am really afraid of the tigers.” He laughed at me and said, “I don’t want to teach you how to survive in the jungle. The jungle is where we live. We get our life from the jungle. I want to teach you how to live in the jungle.”
From that time forward, Deo taught me how to live in the jungle. He taught me about delicious foods that the jungle provided. He taught me how to look for signs and the places where there might be snakes or tigers. He took a place that had once been threatening and scary and transformed it into a place that I enjoyed, a place that became home. Deo not only taught me how to live in the jungle but he also taught me how to live life, to care for someone more than self and to be committed to another regardless of the cost. He taught me about the power of love and how love can overcome fear when your life is threatened.
Life is a precious gift we have been given by God. Still though, we face battles and trials, and often hope to just survive. What we hope readers will get from our story is the knowledge that there is a God who walks with you through life, who is there to face every battle with you and who will not only help you survive but will also teach you how to live in the midst of those battles and experience His daily presence, abundant life, and love.
ADDITIONAL PRAISE FOR MARCUS BROTHERTON’S Blaze of Light:
“From the windblast of landing choppers to the sensory assault of close-quarters battle, Blaze of Light put me right in the middle of the steaming jungles of Vietnam. Gary Beikirch was grievously wounded and facing a ruthless enemy, and his selfless choices made him the rarest of war heroes—one whose valor is measured not in lives taken but in lives saved.”
— Lynn Vincent, New York Times best- selling author of Indianapolis
“I was on the Nixon White House staff while Gary Beikirch was serving in Vietnam’s jungles. As the White House looked at the mega-issues of the war, we too easily lost sight of the incredible micro-moments of heroism displayed by Gary and others, which are so skillfully described by Marcus Brotherton. Marcus shows not only the intensity of the war in the compound where Gary fought but also the pathos in the soul of the warrior. This book sheds needed light in an age when many are trapped in the darkness of PTSD.” — Wallace Henley, former White House and congressional aide and coauthor of God and Churchill, with Sir Winston Churchill’s great-grandson Jonathan Sandys
BLAZE OF LIGHT:
The Inspiring True Story of Green Beret Medic Gary Beikirch, Medal of Honor Recipient
By Marcus Brotherton
A WaterBrook Hardcover | On Sale March 24, 2020
ISBN: 9780525653783 | e-ISBN: 9780525653790