A True Symbol of Patriotism
In the early hours of New Year’s Day 1969, as the world celebrated the dawn of a new year, one man embarked on a journey that would define his life, reshape his values, and inspire a deep commitment to his country. Meet Greg Beck, a United States Marine Corps (USMC) veteran whose story is a testament to duty, sacrifice, and unwavering patriotism.
For Beck, the decision to join the military was not one he took lightly. He felt an innate sense of duty and a debt to his nation that called him to service. “I owed America,” he reflects. However, his family’s reaction was less than enthusiastic; they worried about his safety and the uncertain future awaiting him. Despite their concerns, Beck’s driving commitment to answer the call of duty inspired his immediate enlistment in the USMC upon his graduation from Genoa High School in 1968. At Camp Lejeune military base in Jacksonville, North Carolina, he trained as a motor vehicle operator. Immediately following training, he landed, boots on the ground, in Vietnam on July 9, 1969, where he was assigned to Headquarters Battery, 4th Battalion, 11th Marines, 1st Marine Division. He engaged enemy combatants in Operation Pipestone Canyon from July 25 through November 7, 1969, where 71 Marines were killed in action, 852 People’s Army of Vietnam/Viet Cong were killed, and 58 soldiers were captured.
His experiences in the war-torn country left an indelible mark on his soul. “I met lots of brothers by other mothers,” he recalls. “Other than that, war is hard to describe. It is ninety percent boredom and ten percent terror.” Without delving into graphic details, he conveys the haunting nature of his wartime experiences with the words, “I’ve seen things that people should not have to see.”
Beck’s service in Vietnam came at a significant cost. He lost friends and comrades, leaving a lasting bitterness. The wounds of war, both seen and unseen, are scars that never truly fade. However, their sacrifices strengthened Beck’s commitment to his values and his love for his country. “I believe my values were pretty well set when I went into the service, but my service certainly cemented those and increased my patriotism and love of country.”
Upon his discharge, Beck returned home, where he went to work at International Paper Mill as an apprentice in 1973. In 2014, after 41 dedicated years, he retired as a lab technician. Retirement was just the beginning of a new phase in his lifelong commitment to serving his country. He continued to stand by his fellow veterans, offering mentorship, aid, comfort, and camaraderie. Greg is a well-known and respected leader in this community and has actively served in numerous veteran organizations.
Friend, fellow retired United States Air Force veteran, and Miller County Veteran Service Officer, Thomas Ornberg, shares, “Greg is the lifeblood and master of all Texarkana veterans’ events. He lives by the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) motto, ‘Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another,’ and his actions show he means it!”
The city initiated the construction of a Korean and Vietnam War monument on the border of Texas and Arkansas to memorialize those missing and killed in action in the four-states area. However, when plans faltered, Beck and Dan Nicholson, “took the reins,” Ornberg said, “and finished the project within five years. Beck brought the community together through business donations and community labor. The memorial is now the meeting place to honor and remember those lost during the Korean and Vietnam wars.”
In 2018, through VVA #278, Beck pioneered the Wagons for Veterans annual fundraiser. Chuckwagons from all over the country make the trip to take part, and 100 percent of the proceeds go towards the nonprofit charity. To date, $64,000 has been raised to help pay for utilities, home repairs, wheelchair ramps, food boxes, etc., for veterans in need.
In addition, Beck initiated and has spearheaded the annual local veteran information fair for the past 25 years, inviting various veterans service organizations to all come together in one place to connect veterans to their earned benefits. Through the Texarkana Area Veterans’ Council (TAVC), he also drove numerous functions to raise funds for the purchase of a Disabled American Veterans (DAV) van, which provides free transportation for veterans to and from the VA Medical Center in Shreveport, Louisiana. He continuously directs the annual Veteran’s Day parades and the annual Memorial Day events. This year’s Veteran’s Day parade, November 11, at 11 a.m., will feature 103-year-old World War II combat veteran Jesse Linam as the grand marshall. The theme this year is 150+ years of veterans in Texarkana, in conjunction with the celebration of the Texarkana sesquicentennial.
Beck has championed patriotism through the flag project, where hundreds of flags adorn veteran’s graves at both Chapelwood and Memorial Gardens cemeteries in Texas and Arkansas, respectively. His dedication and shining example inspired the Texarkana VFW to lay flags at Rondo Cemetery as well, and flags are placed throughout the community on six holidays annually.
Beck has held many positions now within the TAVC, from president to trustee. He chairs monthly Texarkana Community Veterans Engagement Board (TCVEB) meetings at the Texarkana VA Clinic. He engages and collaborates with public and private partnerships to further the VA’s strategic mission and priorities.
Beck’s tireless advocacy to rename a bridge in honor of Zainah Creamer and Kyle Stout, two local fallen soldiers in Afghanistan, was successful, but his commitment to honoring those who serve does not end with veterans. He also built a local law enforcement memorial to pay tribute to officers who have fallen in the line of duty. It is a testament to his unwavering respect for all those who dedicate their lives to public service.
Beck’s own legacy is one of service, sacrifice, and tireless dedication to the well-being and remembrance of those who have served their country. His words carry the weight of decades when he shares, “Being a veteran, you have a large family of brothers and sisters who’ve also served. It’s very hard to watch this country deteriorate like it has the last couple of years after so many have served and sacrificed for it over the years.” He is doing his best to ensure those sacrifices are never taken for granted.
Greg Beck is not just a veteran; he is a true symbol of patriotism, a testament to the enduring bond among those who have served, a community leader, and a shining example of how one person’s dedication can make a profound and lasting impact. He shows us all what it truly means to honor, remember, and never forsake those who have served.
SOME OF GREG BECK’S...
President: Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) #278 Texarkana, Arkansas
Trustee and Founding Member: Texarkana Area Veterans Council (TAVC)
Senior Vice Commander: Disabled American Veterans (DAV) #222 Texarkana, Arkansas
Lifetime Member: Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) #4562 Texarkana, Arkansas
Judge Advocate: Marine Corps League #1149 Texarkana, Arkansas
Board Chair: Texarkana Community Veterans Engagement Board (TCVEB)
Member: The American Legion #58 Texarkana, Arkansas
Member: Elks Lodge #2771 Texarkana, Texas
Member: Masonic Lodge #341 Texarkana, Arkansas
Member at Large: American Veterans (AMVETS)
Awarded Accommodation Medal for outstanding service by VVA National HQ
VVA Region 7’s member of the year, twice.
“Extra mile” award granted by the Texas Veterans Commission for selfless service with Wagons for Veterans program.
National Defense Service Medal
Republic of Vietnam Service Medal, with one-star device
Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces Meritorious Unit Citation of the Gallantry Cross with palm
Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, with (1960-) device
Rifle Marksman’s badge
The sixth annual Wagons for Veterans is set for Saturday, March 9, 2024, at the Four States Fairgrounds.
Gates open at 10:45 a.m., with opening ceremonies at 11:15 a.m. Meals start at 11:30 a.m. and will be available until food runs out. Meals cooked the old-fashioned way in cast-iron pots over open fires will be served for the low cost of $15 for all-you-can-eat! There will be live music, a Corvette, Jeep, car, and bike show, Iron Munchers, bounce houses, antique tractors, square dancing, a live auction, military vehicles, and more, with 100% of the proceeds going towards the Wagons for Veterans charity.