Andrew Dys

Soldier cherishes fond reminder of hometown

Sgt. 1st Class Bo Beam, right, and Capt. David Green hold the city of Rock Hill flag atop a mountain in Afghanistan. Beam, a Rock Hill resident and member of the 178th Combat Engineers based in Rock Hill, is on leave and will present the flag to Mayor Doug Echols.
Sgt. 1st Class Bo Beam, right, and Capt. David Green hold the city of Rock Hill flag atop a mountain in Afghanistan. Beam, a Rock Hill resident and member of the 178th Combat Engineers based in Rock Hill, is on leave and will present the flag to Mayor Doug Echols.

Most weekdays, the two little blonde-haired Rock Hill Beam boys, 7 and 5, go to Finley Road Elementary School. The Beam mother goes to work. The Beam father makes sure somebody else's father or son is delivered the supplies that keep that father or son from getting killed.

Then the Beam father tries not to get killed, in Afghanistan.

Bo Beam came home on a few days' leave this week. He got up early each morning and drove the boys, Justin and Ryan, to school each day. He picked them up in the afternoon. He threw them a football. They clung to him.

"The little things, wow, you miss them," Beam said.

What bonds guys like Beam to so many others is all are area guys. Many are Rock Hill guys. More than 110 Army National Guard soldiers from the 178th Combat Engineers based in Rock Hill and Fort Mill are in Afghanistan. They are training the Afghan Army and police that must be trusted by the Afghan people if soldiers will ever be able to come home for good.

But that mission can't be done at the Rock Hill armory. It is done by fathers and sons, and some mothers and daughters, from right here in Rock Hill.

From home.

Noelle Beam wanted her husband and others to have some of home over there. She mentioned to a couple named Echols she knew from church that it would be great if the men had a Rock Hill flag to fly in Afghanistan.

"I thought maybe in the chow hall, where the men would see it and be reminded that we here appreciate what they are doing," Noelle Beam said.

Doug Echols, mayor of Rock Hill, was able to get that flag sent to those soldiers. When it arrived, it didn't go in the mess hall.

It flew near the American flag. Near the French and English flags. Near Romania and all the coalition country flags. Near the South Carolina flag that flies for the 218th brigade from South Carolina that the men belong to.

"We flew it where we are based, Camp Alamo in Kabul, in the face of the enemy," said Beam.

Then, Beam and others from Rock Hill climbed a craggy mountain nicknamed "The Gar." At the top, Beam waved an American flag to the world.

Then he and Capt. David Green grabbed both ends of the Rock Hill flag and one of Beam's soldiers grabbed Beam's camera and took a picture. The background looks like Mars, or the moon.

But it is Afghanistan.

When he talks about his time in Afghanistan, Sgt. 1st Class Beam at age 39 would rather talk about others. He's logged more miles over hostile roads than almost anybody in his brigade. But so what, he says.

Beam talks about the young 21-year-old soldier who works for him, Glenn Casiano. From a tiny blip on the map named Yemassee down off Interstate 95 somewhere. Casiano earned his American citizenship while standing in the rocks that are Afghanistan. Only when I beg -- and get that Beam wife named Noelle to help -- do I find out that Bo Beam worked his supply sergeant magic to get Casiano's leave dates changed. So that young man born in the Philippines could go home to little Yemassee and see his family as a citizen of the United States of America.

He talks about the jacket he gave to a shiny-eyed, beautiful, tiny little barefoot Afghan girl who owned no jacket.

When Bo Beam was on the last leg of the flight home from Afghanistan to see his family, he had a coach ticket. He gave up his assigned seat so a mother and her little child could sit together. The plane was packed.

Before the plane could take off, a passenger walked to the back of the plane and asked the strange soldier to stand up.

"Soldier, you are in the wrong seat," the guy told Beam.

Beam prepared to move back and find somewhere even if it was the floor.

The man said, "Hold on. I just bought you an upgrade to first class. Get up to the front where you belong."

Beam grabbed his bag from the overhead bin and the lady with the kid stood up and started clapping. Other passengers, the flight attendants, the pilots, everybody, stood and clapped. Bo Beam walked up front.

He said he doesn't know, but believes, that Casiano, now an American citizen, got the same treatment.

"What a great country we live in, and fight for," is what Bo Beam told me.

In a few days, Beam will go right back to Afghanistan. He will present that Rock Hill flag to Echols first.

Because he wants his home city to know the guys who left miss Rock Hill, and fight for it, and the sons and wives left behind.

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