Jesse L. Beacham was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi on September 29, 1939. He graduated from St. Mary’s Catholic School in June 1958 and enlisted in the US Army in August 1958. Upon the completion of basic and Infantry AIT training at Fort Jackson, SC, he immediately volunteered for, and completed, the 82nd Airborne Division Airborne School at Fort Bragg, NC in January 1959. He then was assigned duty with the 1st Airborne Battle Group, 503rd Infantry.
Over the next two and a half years, he completed 25 mass tactical and night parachute jumps. Because of his soldiering abilities, he was promoted ahead of his peers to the rank of Specialist (E4) and was selected to be tested for, and was awarded, the prestigious Expert Infantry Badge.
In 1961, he re-enlisted for an over-seas assignment in Panama and was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 508th Airborne Infantry. For the next two and a half years, duty consisted of physical training, extensive jungle training, and airborne operations, which included night jumps, water landing techniques, and, out of necessity, tree landing (OJT).
In June of 1964, he was promoted to “Buck” Sergeant (E5) and reassigned to the 101st Airborne Division, 1st 501st Airborne (Geronimo) Battalion, Fort Campbell, KY.
At Fort Campbell, training was the priority. Airborne operations platoon and squad size infantry tactics were homed razor sharp. He attended and completed the 101st Jumpmaster Course, Air Delivery School, and in January 1965, he completed “Recondo School,” the most physically and mentally demanding school that the 101st Abn. Div. had to offer for a small unit leader.
In September 1965, he was awarded Master Parachutist Jump Wings after completing his 65th parachute jump.
The 1st 501st Airborne (Geronimo) Battalion was re-designated to the 4th Battalion, 173rd (ABN), 503rd in June 1966, and deployed as a unit, by a troopship, to Vietnam. After a year in combat, he was gratified that his previous infantry, jungle training, and the airborne spirit served him well, and he departed Vietnam as a SSG (E6), having been awarded the Bronze Star Medal w/V device, the Combat Infantry Badge, and as a well seasoned combat veteran.
He remained Airborne Infantry and was promoted to platoon sergeant (E7) in 1970 and was assigned to serve another tour of duty in Vietnam as an adviser to the South Vietnamese Army unit. He again received the second award of the Bronze Star and was awarded the Air Medal.
Upon returning from Vietnam in 1971, he was once again assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division as a platoon sergeant to the newly formed 3/4th Air Defense Artillery Unit.
At this junction in his career, he had attended all major NCO academies for his MOS and was selected to attend Advance Non-Commission Officer Advance Course in Fort Benning, GA. His career, and chances for further promotions at that time, was enhanced by being selected to attend Drill Sergeant School. There he served three years as a Drill Sergeant.
After that assignment, another three year tour of duty in Panama. In 1977, he was promoted to, and served as, First Sergeant (E8) of an Airborne Infantry and mechanized company. Returning to Fort Jackson, SC in 1980, he served as First Sergeant (E8) of a basic training company.
In 1983, after 24 years of active military service, two Vietnam combat tours, 228 parachute jumps, he retired honorably as a First Sergeant (E8).
He entered the civilian world with the attitude and motivation of his favorite quotation, “Drive on! And let the momentum carry you through.”
Airborne All The Way