While driving down Barclay in Brooksville last week I spotted something that made me stop. It was a display made out of plywood depicting two soldiers kneeling down in front of three wooden crosses. I was curious about it and wanted to take a picture. I pulled into the driveway and waited until someone came out of the house so I could get the homeowner’s permission to take the photo. Little did I know that I would get more than just a “photo op.”
The display was erected by seventy-nine year old David L. Beckner, a career Army veteran, as a tribute to his two brothers that also served in the Army. It is more than that, though. It represents a small memorial to veterans of all the military branches.
Dave states, “The reason I put up the display was to honor my two brothers. They’re deceased now, but they weren’t killed in action. The two wooden silhouettes kneeling next to the two crosses represent my two brothers. The third cross will be me one day.”
Dave joined up in 1954 at the age of sixteen. His reason for enlisting was very simple.
“A judge told me it was either join the military or be sent to the boys’ juvenile detention facility in Marianna, Florida.”
It turned out to be a good decision for him.
“You either love the Army or you hate it and I loved the Army. I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning, even when I was in combat. Everybody depends on each other. You ain’t gonna live too long, if you don’t have that loyalty”
Dave was a paratrooper in the 11th Airborne Division and was also in the infantry. He served three tours of duty in Viet Nam, but his combat days were over when he was hit with shrapnel in his back. The Army offered him 40% disability, but he turned it down.
“After that the Army switched me to food service. They sent me to Mess Sergeant School and I ended up as a food inspector.”
Dave made the Army a career and retired at the young age of thirty-six. He then opened up a feed store in Hudson, Florida. Later, he bought eighty acres in Chiefland, Florida and went into the hay business.
His sense of humor shows through in many ways.
“When I got to Chiefland I thought everyone was so friendly. They’d wave to me. Then I found out they were just swattin’ flies.”
Dave had a stroke in Sept. of 2015, but he hasn’t let that keep him down.
“I went in for hip surgery and a day and a half later I had a stroke. The good thing is that it happened in the hospital. I ended up staying in for a month.”
His grandson and namesake, “Little David,” as the family calls him, followed in Beckner’s footsteps. The younger David was a paratrooper in the Army, just like his grand dad and his two great uncles (Beckner’s brothers).
“In 2005, I went to Ft. Benning, Georgia to see him graduate from Jump School. I put his “blood wings” on him.”
Blood wings are a tradition for the paratroopers when they graduate. Another person removes the metal studs from the sharp points on the wings and then places the badge on the graduate’s chest. The insignia is then slammed against the person’s chest, resulting in the pins being driven into the flesh and drawing blood.
“I took my finger and stuck it behind the wings, I drew back my other hand and my grandson’s eyes got about THAT big. I hit the badge, but I hit my finger too!”
“Little David” is out of the Army now and lives with his grandfather helping to take care of the partially disabled veteran.
Men (and women) like David L. Beckner are what Memorial Day and other patriotic holidays are all about.