The ABCs of Lowell History is back for another round. This popular series explores a wide variety of topics in Lowell area history in weekly online articles and is written by volunteers and staff from the Lowell Area Historical Museum.
B is for Beachnaw, Lucas
The Lowell area can boast of many heroic soldiers, from the earliest settlers who had fought in the War of 1812, to the young soldiers fighting today’s battles. Lowell also has its own Roll of Honor, those soldiers who gave their lives for their country. One of these is Sgt. Lucas Beachnaw.
Luke was born in 1986 to Kevin and Jeanne Beachnaw and older sisters Terra and Jamie. His sisters called him “Mama’s boy” and “Mama’s baby”. Mom called him her “Boy Wonder”. It was said he was mischievous, curious, industrious, adventurous, fun loving, and a friend to all. Luke loved everyone, and everyone loved Luke. When he became an uncle, he easily became little Emma’s favorite person. Luke graduated from Lowell High School in 2004. He dreamed of a future in small engine repair and enjoying his great love – snowboarding.
As the nation became involved in Operation Enduring Freedom, Luke decided to join the military. At his mom’s request he put off enlisting for a year to be sure of his decision. During that year he ran a crew in Louisiana, cleaning up after Hurricane Katrina. On April 6, 2006, solid in his decision, he enlisted, walking in the steps of both his grandfathers, his uncles, and his oldest sister.
Lucas was part of the Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade. He ranked at the top as a soldier and in pathfinder school. He was an incredible marksman, graduating at the top of the class in sniper school, earning the “top gun” award.
Lucas’ adventurous, fun, people-loving personality came through even in the military, the following adventures illustrate that.
Out and about in Italy, a couple was lost and asked for directions. Luke started to give directions to them, then invited them to join his group and included them, making sure they saw all the sights.
One day Luke called his sister asking, “Guess where I am right now?” He was snowboarding on top of a mountain in the Alps and wanted to share that with his sister.
Special events were held at the base, and instead of playing football or doing one of the sports, Lucas volunteered to do face-painting for the kids.
In Afghanistan, whenever the top brass would come to the deployment area, they would always ask for Lucas to be their driver. Growing up in the country he grew up driving on the back roads. This helped him learn difficult road conditions. In Afghanistan, they had to drive through treacherous terrain in the mountains. They trusted Lucas to get them there and back safely. Acknowledging this with humor, the guys in his platoon made a T-shirt for him that said, “Taxi Driver”.
On January 13, 2010, Lucas was a squad leader on patrol in Eastern Afghanistan when a firefight erupted, and he was killed. This Bronze Star of Valor recipient, Purple Heart recipient, and hero of the highest caliber gave his life in service for his country.
Luke returned to his hometown in death and was honored for the hero that he was. People lined the streets with flags and signs of support for his family. Patriot Guard riders were there to “wrap him in honor and show his family that we understand nothing anyone does can top what Sergeant Beachnaw did” said Mike Welch of the Patriot Guard. In lieu of flowers the family set up a memorial to offset the expenses of soldiers coming to Lowell for the services.
Luke’s mom Jeanne began a scholarship for students with financial needs to enjoy what Luke enjoyed, snowboarding. Recipients were gifted a season pass and their rental fees were covered.
In July of 2010, a Battlefield Cross Memorial honoring Sgt. Lucas Tyler Beachnaw was unveiled at the Lowell Veterans’ Memorial Park on Main Street. The battlefield memorial is a cast bronze statue that includes a pair of military boots with an M-16 rifle and bayonet thrust into the earth between them along with a Kevlar battle helmet resting atop the stock of the rifle. The funding for the memorial had been raised by the American Legion.
Throughout his life some things never changed. He was always his Mama’s baby and his sisters’ best friend. He made his dad proud every day and he loved his hometown. Luke had a Winston Churchill quote tattooed on his ribcage that read “We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.” Luke lived by those words, and they represented what being a soldier meant to him. Although he was not a violent person, he understood as a soldier you have to be strong enough to fight the battles, brave enough to face the unknown, passionate enough to work hard, and loyal enough to lay down your life for the people you love. So, while he may have become many things in his life, a son, a brother, an uncle, a friend, maybe he was a soldier all along.