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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Korean War veteran honored for his service

Western Hills Press

Kurt Backscheider

There was no fanfare for Edward “Eppie” Beck when he returned home from the Korean War.

He’d spent nearly three years in prisoner of war camps, but the only thanks he received when he got back home was a small party his family and friends threw for him.

His son, Pete Beck, said his father has finally received the recognition he rightfully earned.

Edward Beck, a resident of the Three Rivers Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Miami Township, Hamilton County, was recently honored by Crossroads Hospice. Surrounded by three generations of his family, he was presented a certificate, a hat and words of recognition by Crossroads Hospice Chaplain Paul Burden, who also serves as a chaplain in the Air National Guard.

“It was great,” Pete Beck said. “I think dad was a little shocked, but he was honored to get it.

“It’s kind of bittersweet in some ways because he’s nearing the end of his life,” he said.

Crossroads Hospice recognized the 80-year-old Korean War veteran through its Honor Our Veterans campaign.

Cindee Tresslar, executive director of Crossroads Hospice, said the program acknowledges the bravery of their veteran patients, staff members and veterans in the community.

“We recognize the sacrifices of our veteran patients like Edward Beck have made and believe we owe a debt of gratitude for the security they have provided by defending our nation,” Tresslar said.

“Whether we’re honoring a veteran patient with his family, or recognizing 50 veterans at an assisted living facility in a group ceremony, we take the time to say ‘Thank You’ and show our support for their tremendous service.”

Pete Beck, a Monfort Heights resident, said his father wasn’t always the easiest person to live with, but the circumstances of his father’s life justify his tough demeanor.

“Dad has had a difficult life,” Pete said. “He’s been through hell and back.”

A Camp Washington native, Edward Beck had to grow up without a father – his father died when he was only 2 years old.

He dropped out of high school at age 16 and enlisted in the U.S. Army.

“My dad wanted to see the world and he figured that was the best way to get out,” Pete said. “Little did he know the Korean War was going to break out.”

In 1950, he found himself in the 8th Division of the Army’s 1st Cavalry, fighting alongside his fellow soldiers in Korea.

Three months into the fighting he was taken prisoner by the North Koreans. He was captured Nov. 2, 1950, and was moved around to three different prison camps until his release Aug. 23, 1953.

“Not until later in life did he talk about his experiences in the war,” Pete Beck said.

“It was always hush, hush.”

He said his father had a hard time adjusting to civilian life after he came home from Korea. He eventually re-enlisted in the Army, and served at bases in Massachusetts and Virginia and reached the rank of sergeant before being honorably discharged. In total, he served nine years in the Army.

It was during his second stint with the Army that he met his wife, Thelma (Ritter) Beck. The couple married, settled in Monfort Heights and raised three children – Pete and his two older sisters, Gwen and Terri.

Pete Beck said he and his father didn’t always see eye to eye, but he came to understand why his father was so hard to grow up with after he started attending P.O.W. reunions with his father and hearing stories from the war.

He said his father survived two different death marches when he was transferred between prison camps, and he overcame hunger, dysentery, tapeworms and cruel guards in the deplorable conditions of the wartime prisons.

“There are some stories I don’t think I can tell,” Pete said. “But I can tell you he was not one to bend or flex or fold for the guards. Dad was a tough cookie.”

He said he always thought his father deserved more recognition for the sacrifice he made for this country.

“I have a lot of respect for him,” Pete said. “He’s my hero, and I wouldn’t trade him for all the tea in China.”

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