View Full Version : Wounded RP shows courage on battlefield

02-09-06, 08:25 AM
Wounded RP shows courage on battlefield
2nd Marine Logistics Group
Story by: Lance Cpl. Wayne C. Edmiston

CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq(Feb. 9, 2006) -- A Navy religious program specialist has a very special duty. His job is to assist the Navy chaplains any way he can. Whether it is to prepare for religious service or be an enlisted advisor, these small things don’t undermine the RP’s primary focus; to protect the chaplain.

Chaplains serve as non-combatants and do not carry a weapon, even in the most dangerous combat environment they are protected by their respective RP.

When Petty Officer 1st Class Michael A. Beeler Jr. was wounded by sniper fire alongside his chaplain on a convoy with 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward) the ‘guardian angel’ role took on a new meaning.

When Beeler first enlisted in the Navy he came in as an undesignated deck seaman.

“I busted rust and chipped paint off ships,” Beeler, the Beaufort, S.C. native said. “I struck for corpsman for 18 months but couldn’t get into the field.”

His former Marine father was the first to tell him about the religious program specialist field and how he could still serve along Marines.

Beeler had so much success as an RP in 2003 that he was named “Fleet Marine Force RP of the Year” by the United States Navy.

“I love serving alongside Marines,” Beeler explained. “I love going outside the wire and going on convoys.”

In 2005 he was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom to serve in a combat zone tandem with Marines.

On Feb. 2, while in Ar Ramadi, Beeler was reminded of his role and of the danger RP’s are willing to face.

“The RP suddenly grabbed my arm,” said Navy Lt. Michael R. Pipkin, battalion chaplain for 8th ESB, 2nd MLG (Fwd.) “A bullet had hit his forearm and had ricocheted off the vehicle behind us.”

A hospital corpsman quickly responded to the wounded RP and Marines provided immediate security for the chaplain and his wounded sailor, Pipkin said.

After rising from the blow, Beeler fought back with some words of reprisal towards the insurgent sniper.

“He got to his feet and walked over to the awaiting ambulance,” Pipkin said. “But just as he was stepping up he screamed out, ‘You should [have] shot me better!’”

On the medical evacuation back to Camp Taqaddam, the RP maintained a sense of humor, lamenting the fact that he would not be able to spend any time at the gym for a while, Pipkin said.

“When seen by the doctors, they determined that the bullet had entered his forearm, glanced off of a bone and missed every single nerve, artery and tendon,” Pipkin said. “I don’t know whether he was lucky, blessed or both.”

The wounded RP still continues his work after the incident. Beeler felt that his injury, although unfortunate, proves the dedication of service members, no matter what their job field may be.

“I am the chaplain’s weapon,” Beeler said. “I protect the chaplain at all costs.”