By Emily Klinkenborg | U.S. Army Medical Department Activity-Fort Carson Public Affairs Office
FORT CARSON, Colo. — It’s not every day a Soldier has the opportunity to meet a member of the greatest generation.
Retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Edwin Beck, a World War II prisoner of war, 95, and his wife, Fay, 89, arrived at the SEC Jan. 29, 2021, to receive their initial doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
Beck’s arrival signals a new phase of Fort Carson’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts for TRICARE beneficiaries 75 and older.
“They called me the other day saying they had openings and told us to come in at 11 o’clock. We had about five different calls come in to remind us,” said Edwin Beck. “We’d been waiting for this moment.”
Beck, a native of Pennsylvania, joined the Army in 1943 and was assigned to the 106th Infantry Division, 422nd Regiment, when he was captured by the Germans on Dec. 19, 1944, at the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge during World War II.
The American prisoners were forced to travel by foot and box car for several days in the snow before arriving at Stalag IV G, a labor camp near the city of Oschatz, Germany. Russian and British soldiers were also imprisoned at the camp.
“One of the Russian prisoners had a pair of wire cutters so I asked for them,” said Beck. “One of my friends asked what I was going to do with them and I said ‘I’m going home.’”
Beck, and two other American prisoners, escaped during the German guards’ shift change. He spent nearly six months as a POW that winter.
The Becks have seven children together — three girls and four boys. Out of the seven children, six are local in Colorado Springs.
Every year they get together as a family with their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren to celebrate Thanksgiving, but like many other families, the Becks had to spend this past Thanksgiving alone.
“Everything was all messed up. We always have everybody come in, but this year we didn’t,” said Beck. “I just told the kids don’t come.”
The Becks were among the first 85 and older enrolled beneficiaries notified by EACH Jan. 27, 2021, using an AudioCARE message from the Colorado Military Health System Access to Care Line with instructions to book an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Enrolled beneficiaries age 75 and up will soon receive an AudioCARE message and a letter from the Fort Carson Department of Public Health detailing how to schedule their COVID-19 vaccine appointment. Phone numbers and mailing addresses must be updated to ensure information on file is accurate.
EACH will continue offering the COVID-19 vaccine to national critical capabilities and Soldiers preparing to deploy outside of the continental U.S. (OCONUS) as outlined in Phase 1B of the DOD Vaccine Distribution Plan, as well as recipients from the initial phases.
The Becks are scheduled to receive their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Feb. 26, 2021, which is 28 days after their first dose.
“You shouldn’t believe everything you hear,” said Beck, combating the myths about the COVID-19 vaccine. “I think getting the (COVID-19) vaccine is a great idea, and you should get the flu vaccine, too.”