Beitler given special membership at local American Legion
It is literally by a matter of inches that 96-year-old Berne resident Richard Beitler is here today to tell his story and enjoy his family.
Beitler was stationed in Lazon in the Philippine Islands when he came under fire from Japanese soldiers.
“The bullet went clean through the steel of my helmet and grazed my head,” Beitler told a group attending an American Legion supper in Berne on Saturday. “We came under fire and our guys moved back behind the hill. I was one of the last ones to retreat. The Japanese fired at me but luckily I was never injured.”
Beitler was presented the Purple Heart due to his valor in the situation and his dedicated service in the war.
Ron Bollenbacher, leader of the local American Legion, who has just accepted responsibilities of Adams County Veteran Service officer, was recently reviewing service of local veterans when he came across Beitler’s record of service. He was so overwhelmed with what he discovered with Beitler and that he had never received local American Legion membership.
“He had never been a member of the legion,” said Bollenbacher. “We decided that was going to change tonight. We are proud to welcome him into this membership.”
“Thank you for having us (Beitler and family) here tonight,” said Beitler. “Thank you for honoring me with this membership. Thank you for your efforts to get me to Washington last year on the Honor Flight.”
Beitler said that he marveled at the one hour and 15 minute flight to Washington at an altitude of 35,000 feet.
“We spent three hours at the World War II Memorial,” said Beitler. “There were many other memorials there. The highlight of the day was at Arlington; the changing of the guard was very impressive.”
Beitler said that he had been part of the biggest draft in Adams County. On April 19, 1941, 68 draftees met at the Decatur Library and were transported to the Fort Wayne.
Beitler eventually ended up taking his basics at Camp Shelby, Miss. The next stop was in western Louisiana where he received his amphibious training. In that process, he was trained in an offensive military operation that uses normal ships to project ground and air military power on to a hostile or potentially hostile shore.
Eventually, Beitler was shipped from New Orleans through the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, Panama Canal, into the Pacific Ocean and to Hawaii. The Berne veteran finally ended up in New Guinea and then to Lazon, Philippines.
One of the ironies that occurred within the Beitler family many years later involved Beitler’s daughter, Ellen. She was married to pastor Wayne King when they visited Hollandia, a port in New Guinea, where her father had been stationed many years before. King and her husband were part of a mission trip.
Saturday evening, King, visiting from Tennessee in support of her father’s award, described the feeling of standing in the same port where her father had been stationed many years before.
“I was honored when I found out he had been there many years before,” said King. “I was thrilled to stand where my dad had been during World War II.”
Beitler had accumulated enough points in service in September of 1945 to be discharged from service.
He arrived in San Francisco on Sept. 26, ranked as a platoon sergeant.
“It was so good to see the Golden Gate Bridge as we sailed into port,” said Beitler.
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