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What Makes a Hero

Suggested Level

Suggested Applications

Middle and High School History, Vietnam War

Students will:
• Consider the elements that make a hero.
• Generate words that describe a Medal of Honor recipient.
• Identify characteristics of someone who may become a hero.

Medal of Honor Focus: Gary Beikirch, Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company B, 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces / Kontum Province, Vietnam

For the Teacher:
Prepare the classroom by placing a flip chart at each corner with the following questions:
• Can you be considered a military hero if you aren’t fighting in hand-to-hand combat for your country?
• What kinds of assignments or duties are needed to operate a military unit?
• What words describe a Medal of Honor recipient?
• What other everyday jobs require the same characteristics as those of a Medal of Honor recipient?

Introductory Activity:
Arrange students randomly into four equal groups. Suggested grouping strategy: Give each student a slip of paper
upon entering the room. On the slips, evenly divided: Vietnam, Special Forces, U.S. Army, Sergeant. Students must
find the rest of their group.

Small Group/Individual Activity:
Each group will spend five minutes writing answers on the flip chart. Students will move to a new location with a
new question and continue the process. The challenge is not to repeat a prior group’s answers.

Whole Group Activity:
Students will view Gary Beikirch's vignette. Students will discuss what an unlikely hero he was. Discussion points:
• going to college for no reason other than a girl
• being a medic and not a foot soldier
• living in a cave

Concluding Activity:
Individually, students will answer two of the flip chart questions using Gary Beikirch's vignette. Which words
describe Gary Beikirch? Explain why.

Extended Activity:
Students will interview a family member or friend who has served in the military. If a student cannot find a veteran
to interview, have the student read an additional citation or profile. Have students summarize what the veteran
did. Upon completion of the summary, list any of the characteristics that the family member or friend had that
were listed on the board or discussed in the earlier class.

List of questions and answers, informal discussion

Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty. NY: Artisan, 2006.

In Their Own Words - Gary Beikirch