U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Charles D. Costanza and Command Sgt. Maj. Quentin Fenderson, the command team of the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, presented a long-awaited Purple Heart Medal and World War I Victory Medal to the granddaughter and extended family of one of their own, 103 years after he was killed in action in France.
The special ceremony took place on Aug. 9 at the 3rd Infantry Division Museum on Fort Stewart and was the culmination of the efforts of the U.S. Army Human Resources Command, U.S. Army Forces Command, the 3rd Infantry Division, and the Beasley Family to properly recognize the service and sacrifice of 1st Lt. Thomas Reed Beasley, Sr.
A native of Reidsville, Georgia, Beasley was a member of Company D, 4th Infantry, 5th Infantry Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, American Expeditionary Forces, fighting in the frontline trenches when he was killed in action on Oct. 5, 1918, in the Argonne Forrest sector. His remains were interred at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, France.
Kay Beasley Toups, Beasley’s granddaughter and his closest living relative, remarked that while it has been a long, team effort to have this level of recognition for their lost loved one, the Family is incredibly grateful for the ceremony and for honoring his memory in this way.
“It’s overwhelming. It’s beyond belief. It’s really a miracle it happened,” said Kay Toups. “The gratitude my Family is feeling right now is truly indescribable. We will always be eternally grateful to the 3rd Infantry Division and to the U.S. Army, who truly never forgets its own.”
Beasley was killed at the age of 22, just shy of his 23rd birthday. At the time, his then-pregnant widow received only a telegram informing the Family of his death.
More than a century later, the emotional ceremony included remarks by the division command team, Beasley’s Family members, and a presentation of the awards with the assistance of a current 3rd Infantry Division Soldier in a WWI period costume.
Kay Toups remarked on how appropriate it is that the division’s deputy commanding general-readiness, Brig Gen. Jean-Pierre Fagué, was present. Fagué is an officer in the French Army. His role as deputy commanding general is unique as he is only the second for the U.S. and French armies in this position, made possible by the U.S. Army’s Military Personnel Exchange Program. The program is designed to strengthen bonds of friendship, understanding, and interoperability between the countries and their respective military organizations.
“General Fague, it’s so wonderful you’re here. Our Family has made several trips to your great country,” Toups tearfully said. “I’ve never forgotten that your great country donated land, gave it to the United States, so our heroes could be buried not far from where they fell. Thank you very much for that.”
The 3rd Infantry Division takes its motto “Nous Resterons Là,” meaning “We Shall Remain here,” from the historic campaigns in France. The division earned the designation, “Rock of the Marne,” at the Marne River near Chateau-Thierry in the Summer of 1918 when men like Beasely were on the ground across the country facing a German offensive. Over 2 million U.S. service members came to France in defense of shared Allied freedoms in WWI. Of these, over 68,000 service members are buried or memorialized at American cemeteries in France.
Roland Toups, Kay’s husband, explained how unique it was to have a ceremony supported by so many for a Soldier no one in attendance personally knew.
“You’ve heard about Tom from sort of a distant place,” Ronald said. “When you hear about Tom Beasley the man, you get a total different dimension on what he meant to this Family and why we emulate not just a fallen Soldier, but a man I’d be proud to call a son, a brother, and comrade in arms.”
Beasley received his law degree from the University of Georgia in 1917 before enlisting in the Army for the war effort.
“I just want to read some excerpts from his letters,” said Ronald Toups. “I want you to listen carefully and you can pick out Tom Reed Beasley, the man, in this letter written to his folks just before he departed to the war effort from Newport News, Virginia.”
While no one in attendance knew Beasley personally, many felt the patriotism and pride of correcting a past wrong made for an incredibly moving event. Costanza’s remarks reflected on the special history of the division, the bravery of men like Beasley in overcoming incredible odds, and on the patriotism and dedication of his family.
“I never thought in my 30-year career that I’d be part of something so special,” said Costanza. “To honor a Soldier, even 103 years late, means so much not just to the Family, but to the Marne Division as well.”