Henry Beck was an inspired choice to speak at this week’s Veterans Day ceremony.
The Staples High School first honors senior — captain of the football and lacrosse teams, and an indoor track athlete as well — is both an FCIAC Exemplary Scholar-Athlete (3.82 GPA) and AP Scholar (Economics and Computer Science).
Henry also serves as a Staples Link Crew freshman mentor. He is a member of the Service League of Boys and the Staples Radio Club.
In the summer he works in maintenance and guest services for Westport’s Parks & Recreation Department. Throughout the year he is a volunteer youth football and lacrosse coach.
In his address at the VFW, Henry said:
I am honored to be here today. Words cannot describe how thankful I am for our American veterans.
When I was asked if I would attend this ceremony and say a few words, I decided that I should tell you a little bit about myself and why I feel so compelled to serve our country. I am privileged to stand here today to talk about service and what that means to me.
For most of my life, I have gravitated towards team sports. My dream, as far back as I can remember, was to play football at Staples High School. I remember idolizing the players I grew up watching, and aspired to be like them.
Football is the ultimate team sport. All 11 players must do their jobs independently to achieve success as a team. As captain this past season, it was my job to lead and inspire my teammates to be disciplined, work hard, and execute.
Often this required trust and sacrifice for the greater good of the team. Doing this repeatedly, throughout the season, enabled us to come together as a brotherhood. There is a quote by G.K. Chesterton that I hold close to my heart every time I walk onto a field to compete: “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”
As I entered my senior year at Staples and began the process of deciding where I wanted to attend college, I reflected a lot on who I was, and what was important to me. I kept coming back to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
My grandfather served in the Army during the Korean War 70 years ago, and while we never spoke about it when he was alive, I was always curious. This curiosity laid the foundation for my interest in West Point. I hope to have the chance to join the most important team on the planet, the U.S. Military, to play a part in its goal of protecting our great nation, its people, and their freedoms.
Whether it is at West Point or an ROTC program, I am compelled to give back and pay it forward. I want to give back for all the freedoms I enjoy today, and I want to pay it forward so the kid in elementary school, who has dreams, will have the same chances I did.
All this self-reflection had me thinking a lot about my freedom and those who served to ensure it. They say that giving one’s life in defense of country or freedom is the ultimate sacrifice. I completely agree.
But it hit me that such a sacrifice started with courage and commitment. Anyone who has served our country first had to have the courage to commit to that possibility. What an inspiring example to follow.
Because of the lessons I have learned from my family, coaches, and now you, courage and commitment will serve as a guiding principle in my life.
As a kid my plan was to follow the example set by the Staples football players. Now that I have done that, my dream is to follow the example you have set by serving our country.
Thank you for giving me the freedom to choose what I do with my life. Thank you for your commitment to our country and for being a role model for my generation. Thank you for your courage!