Harriet Beekman: A Passionate Patriot
I received a call last week from Harriet Beekman, a Fairview Park resident, asking me if The Rockport Observer could publish a letter she received from a member of the military in Afghanistan. I am not typically a writer, but when I went to Harriet’s home to meet her, I knew that those in the Rockport community who did not know her would want to.
Harriet is the chairperson and founder of the We Do Care Committee in Fairview Park. She called because she wanted to share the letter with the students of St. Angela’s, Messiah Lutheran, and Mayer Middle School. The 6th, 7th, and 8th graders at these schools are invited every year to participate in the We Do Care Committee’s annual letter writing contest, “For God and Country“. They write to the military about why God and country and the men and women in the armed forces are important to our nation’s freedom.
It is an opportunity for these students to express their gratitude to our military personnel and let the military know how much their service means to our country. Harriet wanted to be certain the students would know that their letters were appreciated by the many military members who receive them.
The We Do Care Committee was started in 1967 in response to a letter Harriet’s son received. His friend serving in Vietnam wrote that no one seems to care about the G.I.s. Since its inception, We Do Care has sent over 25,000 care packages and since 1976, about 120,000 letters from Fairview Park students to military personnel serving overseas.
The walls of Harriet’s home are adorned with framed letters of thanks and certificates of recognition for her work and steadfast dedication to the We Do Care program. Individuals who have written to Harriet to acknowledge her work include Richard Nixon, George Bush, and Colin Powell.
But the letters that truly touch her heart are those written to her by the military. “Many of them like to call me Mom. I just love our armed forces and they are our country’s greatest treasure,” Harriet said.
In 1987, she was presented with the American Spirit Award, the highest form of civilian recognition from the U.S. Air Force Recruiting Service. The award is given to civilians who consistently exhibit the highest principles of service and patriotism to our country. Past recipients of this distinguished award include Bob Hope, Rudy Giuliani, and Dolly Parton.
Harriet suffered a stroke some years back and is a breast cancer survivor. At 95 years old, she is not able to commit the time to We Do Care that she used to. But her drive to keep it going is unwavering. She receives ongoing help from committee members and volunteers. “I’m afraid after I’m gone, the program will just go away. I would love to find someone to take over—someone who will be as passionate about this as me!"
Meg Greenwald works in Business Development and Advertising Sales for The Rockport Observer. She resides in Rocky River with her husband and 17-year old daughter.