January 10, 2011

Ste. Genevieve pays tribute to a fallen hero

By Don Pritchard

STE. GENEVIEVE -- Ste. Genevieve and the nation paid its final respects today to a fallen hero, Sgt. Michael Beckerman, who died last month in combat in Afghanistan.

An honor guard lines the driveway leading to the Basler Funeral Home Saturday.
(Photo by Tracy Newman)

Sergeant Beckerman was laid to rest at Crestlawn Cemetery following the first military funeral held at the Basler Funeral Home since the Vietnam war.

Fire Chief Gregory "Mick" Schwent says the arrival of Sergeant Beckerman's body on Saturday was nothing less than awesome.

He says members of the American Legion and Patriot Guard contingent sent there compliments and thanks to the police and sheriffs departments and all the fire departments for honoring our fallen hero.

Pete Papin with the American Legion said that he met people who came from over 100 miles to honor Sergeant Beckerman at the Cape Girardeau Airport. He went on to say that the entire drive on I-55 from Cape Girardeau to Ste. Genevieve was full of folks on the road and overpasses. He said vehicles on I-55 were stopping to salute as the procession went by.

An even larger turnout was seen today for the procession from the Basler Funeral Home on Center Drive to the Crestlawn Cemetery following Sergent Beckerman's funeral.

In addition to county fire units, Chief Schwent said the Perryville and Farmington departments had their ladder trucks in town to deploy large American flags at the Highways 61 and 32 intersection and at Highway 61 and Route M. The Ste. Genevieve ladder truck was at the cemetery.

Chief Schwent said Ste. Genevieve R-II school children lined the route of the procession along Highway 61 and Valle Catholic school children lined Route M. The public also participated and displayed flags along the total length of the procession.

The man known has the "flag man" provided 1,000 flags along the route.

Gov. Jay Nixon paid his respects at the funeral home and ordered that the U.S. and Missouri flags at state buildings in all 114 counties and the City of St. Louis be flown at half-staff today to honor the bravery and sacrifice of Sergeant Beckerman.

Sergeant Beckerman died on December 31 of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his dismounted patrol in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan.

In addition, Gov. Nixon has ordered that the U.S. and Missouri flags at all state buildings in Ste. Genevieve County be flown at half-staff through Sunday.

"Sergeant Beckerman served our country with bravery and dedication as a soldier in the United States Army, and I ask all Missourians to remember his sacrifice when they see the lowered flags," Gov. Nixon said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family as they mourn for him."

Sergeant Beckerman was assigned to the 2nd Brigade Support Troop Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Kentucky. His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal (2 awards), Army Achievement Medal (2 awards), Army Good Conduct Medal (2 awards), National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Bronze Service Star, Iraq Campaign Medal with Bronze Service Star (2 awards), Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with M Device, Noncommissioned Officers Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, NATO Medal, Combat Action Badge, Combat and Special Skill Badge Basic Marksmanship Qualification Badge (Bar, Weapon: Rifle (Inscription: Rifle), Expert), and the Overseas Service Bar (5 awards).