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West Mich. Vietnam vet finally gets Purple Heart

AP Wire • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:20 AM

“This is what finally got me my Purple Heart,” he said, holding a newspaper clipping from 1968 announcing the then-20-year-old airman had earned the medal after being injured in a rocket attack on Aug. 22, 1968.

The article clipped by Beam’s mother on Dec. 11, 1968, from The Herald-Palladium of St. Joseph was the decisive piece of evidence that convinced the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that Beam did indeed qualify for the Purple Heart.

This past Sunday, the 63-year-old Air Force veteran accepted the medal and a proclamation from state Rep. Bob Genetski, R-Saugatuck; state Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge; and Gov. Rick Snyder.

“It’s a tremendous honor, always an honor, to be among those who wear the uniform,” Genetski said before presenting the honors to Beam.

Beam was manning an observation tower at a camp that came under rocket attack. The enemy fired 30 rounds — the last rocket struck a munitions pile 400 yards from the tower, exploding and throwing Beam 40 feet off the tower. He received shrapnel wounds and was evacuated to a mobile army surgical hospital where he received treatment for his wounds.

Beam was back on duty the next day.

“It is the example of men like Senior Airman Beam that have kept this country strong, prosperous and free,” the proclamation stated. “His service is a testament to courage and unwavering honor, and we are grateful for all that Robert Beam sacrificed in the name of the United States of America.”

Beam, a 1966 Hartford High School graduate, spent much of his life in Holland and is a past commander of the Holland VFW Post. He moved to Fennville in 1997.

He has helped raise money for food and Christmas presents for low-income families and has raised thousands of dollars for cancer research by walking hundreds of miles. Beam also served on the Fennville school board.

— By Jim Hayden, The Holland Sentinel (AP)

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