Funeral Services for U.S. Army Corporal Eldert J. Beek held 70 years after his death

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot
  • 185th Air Refueling Wing PA

Surrounded by lush, green farm fields on a warm June morning, the scene at U.S. Army Cpl. Aldert Beek’s funeral couldn’t have been a sharper contrast to day he was killed in action a world away, on a frozen North Korean battle field on December 1, 1950.

With dozens of family members and friends present, the Sibley, Iowa native turned U.S. Army Infantry soldier was finally laid to rest on Flag Day June 14, 2021, at the Evergreen cemetery in George, Iowa, 70 years after his death.

With a sea of U.S. Flags flowing as a backdrop, full military honors were provided for Cpl. Beek by an honor guard team from the Iowa National Guard during the graveside service held in Iowa’s far northwest corner.

According to a release from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, Beek was reported killed in action when his unit was attacked near the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea in 1950. Following the battle, the determination was made that his remains could not be recovered. At the time of his death, then 20 year old Cpl. Eldert Beek was assigned to Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division.

Decades later Beek’s remains were part of a number of U.S. service members returned to the U.S. in June of 2018 but not positively identified until 2020. To the relief of his family members, a team of examiners from the Department of Defense, using variety of methods including DNA sampling were finally able to positively identify Beek’s remains following his repatriation.

Members of Beek’s family who were able to attend the funeral in George, included his nieces and nephews, Marcia Schneiderman of Dakota Dunes, S.D., John Maxwell of Ashton, Iowa, Cindy Brey of Cushing Minn., Net Tracy of Oxford Junction, Iowa, Sheila Ruka of Kerkhoven Minn. and Eldert’s name sake, Eldon Maxwell of Rock Rapids, Iowa.

“We had a gravestone for him but he had never been buried. So now he’s finally buried beside his mom and dad,” said Beek’s nephew, Eldon Maxwell a retired educator from Rock Rapids, Iowa.

Beek was the son of John and Minnie Beek of Sibley, Iowa.

Maxwell was born after Beek’s death so he said he never got to know his uncle “Eldy” as his family members called him. Maxwell said that years later it was still difficult for his mother to talk about her brother’s death, largely due to the fact that Beek’s remains had never been found.

“Mom didn’t talk about it a lot,” said Maxwell, “because every time she talked about it the pain came back, so it was pretty quiet.”

At the funeral, Eldon’s cousin Cindy Brey received a shadow box from Iowa National Guard Brig. Gen. Stephen Osborn. The box contained a U.S. flag and Beek’s military awards and decorations. Brey in turn presented the shadow box to her cousin Eldon, who said that even decades later it was an emotional experience.

 “I didn’t know it was going to happen,” said Maxwell “it means a lot to me.”

Beek’s military awards and honors include the Purple Heart, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal (with three Bronze Service Stars), Presidential Unit Citation-Navy, Combat Infantryman Badge, United Nations Service Medal, Republic of Korean-Korean War Service Medal, and Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation.

The funeral service concluded quietly as friends and family members departed. Maxwell and Brey gave a few final interviews to members of the media remembering the life of their uncle Eldy. Both cousins said the funeral allowed family members to remember their uncle who sacrificed everything in the service of his country. They also said they are now celebrating the return home their beloved uncle.

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