By Whitney Delbridge Nichels, Warrior Care and TransitionJuly 19, 2017
WASHINGTON - It was a moment several years in the making for Staff Sgt. Brian Beem.
Army Warrior Care and Transition staff members gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial to honor Beem as he was formally recognized as a Purple Heart recipient.
"It was so surprising to see just how many people came out to support," said Beem, who was joined by his wife and one of his three children.
In 2006, Beem was on night patrol in Iraq when an improvised explosive device struck his vehicle. The blast killed his team leader and cost Beem his right leg below the knee.
After returning from Iraq, his unit was reflagged and ordered to deploy to Afghanistan. For Beem, his next move was clear: he would be going too.
"The way I looked at it, if I had two full legs, I'd be going," Beem said. "Disability is a technical term. It doesn't mean I'm less able."
After initially being awarded the Purple Heart on the ground with his unit, Beem learned - years later - that he'd never received the paperwork to go with his commendation.
When he joined WCT in 2015, he started the process to get his official documents, with the support of WCT staff. Col. David Oeschger, the director of the Army Wounded Warrior Program, took an active role in helping him as well.
"Col. Oeschger was so enthusiastic. He wrote a letter of recommendation, and he didn't have to do that," Beem said.
The effort finally paid off in early July when Beem found out his Purple Heart paperwork was complete.
For Oeschger, who gave the remarks during Beem's ceremony, supporting Beem in his efforts felt like the right thing to do.
"He's an exceptional leader of great character," Oescheger said. "No one wants a Purple Heart. It's usually associated with pretty bad news. But it's the resilience of leaders like Staff Sgt. Beem that in the end make it a worthwhile process and an honor."