Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Hometown Hero
Army Spc. James Beckstrand

Army Spc. James "Jimmy" Beckstrand

Matthew and Daniel Hansen are the grand-prize winners of the Crown Royal “Your Name Here” contest. Matthew and Daniel joined the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) in 2002.

Due to injury, Matthew who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, now works at a military base in San Marcos, near to my hometown. He hopes to return overseas again on duty. Daniel was selected to protect President George W. Bush at Camp David in 2004 and later Lieutenant General Richard C. Zilmer, USMC while in Iraq, before falling victim to a roadside bomb supporting combat operations in the Farah province of Afghanistan on February 14, 2009.

As I ready myself for my adventure to Richmond for that special Sprint Cup Race, the story of twin brothers Matthew and Daniel Hansen brings to mind three other young men from San Diego’s North County.

Jimmy Lee Beckstrand was an audacious preteen in the late eighties, a year younger than my oldest son Moses and a year older than my youngest Zachariah. I remember the laughter as the three bounded through the doors looking for a drink of water after playing outside in the cul-de-sac for as long as they could under the warm California sun.

I have to laugh as I recall the night Jimmy and Zack spent the night in a makeshift tent they had pitched in our backyard grass. My husband Paul, waited till after midnight and after their giggly noise faded to creep outside and pretend to be a bear to scare them.

After high school, the three childhood chums set out to make their mark in the world in their own unique way. A few years later, I spotted Jimmy walking uphill towards his father’s house, dressed in his uniform. As I ran outside to say “hi,” I could not contain my awe and surprise. Jimmy Lee looked great and held himself with extreme confidence. I joked that his beloved roller blades would not be an acceptable fashion accessory for his current look.

That was the last time I spoke to Army Spc. James "Jimmy" Beckstrand. On April 29, 2004, during a four-month extension of duty, Jimmy and seven other soldiers from his unit, the 27th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Armored Division out of Baumholder, Germany, were killed when their convoy was attacked and a car bomb exploded near them. Jimmy Lee was just twenty-seven years old and a newlywed. He earned a Purple Heart medal for wounds received in action, and a Bronze Star medal for meritorious service and for his ultimate sacrifice.

Therefore, as I fly to Richmond, this April 29th to honor Matthew and Daniel Hansen for their service and sacrifice, I have mixed emotions. I am excited to be attending the Sprint Cup race at the Richmond International Raceway. I am also pensive as I commemorate the seventh anniversary of our hometown hero’s death. Most of all, however, NASCAR Race Mom is extremely grateful to both Crown Royal and NASCAR for giving America this opportunity to remember and honor the expense our military families pay to protect our rights and freedoms.

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