By Colleen S. Good
Times West Virginian
Serving in the military is a proud tradition in Darryl Beaird’s family.
“I had some uncles who served, two in the Air Force and two in the Marines,” Beaird said. Beaird said he also had cousins who served.
“I really looked up to them,” Beaird said.
So a few years after Beaird’s graduation from Fairmont Senior High School in 1984, he decided to sign up for the Army National Guard.
In 1989, Beaird was assigned to the 119th Engineer Company out of Clarksburg. Beaird and the company were deployed to aid in recovery for several floods in the southern part of the state.
“It was really nice to be able to help someone else out within my own state,” Beaird said. “I got a lot of comfort knowing we were able to help someone else out.”
After his time with the 119th, Beaird spent six months at Fort Eustis, Va., mainly on gate guard duty.
Two months after he got back, he was deployed to Fallujah, Iraq.
He served there for one year.
“It was a really stressful time,” Beaird said. “It was hot, and we were constantly getting mortar shelled all the time.”
But Beaird emphasized that the deployment had its good moments, too.
“We helped out the locals when we could, helped kids and helped to rebuild schools, and things of that nature,” he said. “A lot of people don’t understand that when you go to a place like that, you can also help people out. It’s not just about the negative. A lot of good comes out of it.”
Beaird said one thing he really appreciated during deployment was the chance to be able to use skills he had learned in West Virginia, before he started serving.
“Most soldiers, they only have one military operational skill, but we were fortunate to bring our home skills with us on deployments,” Beaird said. “I had my skills with crane operating, and also my skills as a construction worker.”
One of Beaird’s biggest influences, and best teachers growing up, was his grandfather, James Beaird. He worked as a coal miner for 28 years.
“He taught me the value of work ethic, and that’s early to rise and late to bed, as they say,” Beaird said. “I think that’s what made me such a complete person during my times of deployment, my good work ethic.”
Darryl Beaird was born in Washington D.C., but moved to Fairmont at a very young age to live with his grandparents. After his grandparents passed away, he decided to stay in Fairmont, where he met and married his high school sweetheart, Yvonne Beaird. They have one son, Denzel Beaird, who is 19 years old.
Both Yvonne and Darryl are heavily involved in Fairmont’s VFW Post 629. Darryl is the post commander, while his wife is active in the Ladies Auxiliary.
“I help out where I need to help out, and I oversee all the daily activities, and the canteen,” Darryl Beaird said.
It was important to Beaird that he remain involved after deployment.
“When I was deployed, I saw a lot of veterans get injured, and I knew that they had to come back somewhere. Transitioning back into the community in their home state — they needed help with that,” Beaird said.
Beaird wanted to be involved in that transition.
“I wanted to be a part of the helping process, whether it be dealing with claims, camaraderie, or just lending a year to listen,” Beaird said.
That sense of connection with other veterans is important, Beaird said.
“We have so many veterans that think they’re either not welcome, or just ignored because they think no one knows how to approach them, so I want to make sure they know they can come and talk, and just get a lot off their chest if need be,” he said.
The VFW provides a lot of services to veterans, including helping veterans file claims, using a van to take them to doctor appointments at the VA hospital and doctors’ offices, and helping them enroll in the VA.
“You’d be surprised how many veterans aren’t registered at the VA,” Beaird said.
This is a big deal, Beaird said, because without being registered, veterans don’t have access to their benefits, such as retirement, health care, spousal support, substance-abuse treatment programs and disability benefits.
VFW Post 629 is also involved in the community.
“We have parties and kids’ events, and we do an annual picnic for the community, and we help families that are in need,” Beaird said.
VFW Post 629 was involved in the Veterans Day memorial activities this past year as well. Beaird said that remembering the veterans is crucial.
“It’s important to celebrate Veterans Day for the ones who served before me and that laid down their lives and gave the ultimate sacrifice,” Beaird said. “I think that we can never ever repay that enough.”
Beaird added that his family military tradition will continue with his son.
“He’s working two jobs now, just waiting to go into the Air Force,” Beaird said.
Email Colleen S. Good at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @CSGoodTWV.