FORT BENNING, Ga. — Pvt. Dakota Beahn never had the chance to get to know his great-grandfather, James E. Williams, who passed away shortly after Beahn was born — and yet Williams is known by so many and is somewhat of a legend in the U.S. Navy.
President Lyndon B. Johnson awarded Williams the Medal of Honor in 1968 for his actions as a patrol-boat commander during a firefight in the Vietnam War. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS James E. Williams, which was commissioned in 2004, is also named in his honor. To date, he is known as one of the most decorated, enlisted Sailors in U.S. Navy history.
Beahn continues the legacy of his great-grandfather and his family’s lineage of serving in the military. On Nov. 9, he graduated One Station Unit Training from Apache Company, 1st Battalion, 81st Armor Regiment, as an M1 armor crewman on Brave Rifles Parade Field at Fort Benning, Georgia.
“It’s definitely something to take pride in, and it’s definitely something to be proud of,” Beahn said. “It’s nice knowing that I’m a part of something that not many people can take claim to. It’s something to take seriously because I’ve had family members who have fought for this nation, and it’s something to be proud of. ”
Beahn’s family members have fought in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and Operation Enduring Freedom.
Beahn said that aside from his family’s rich history, he also needed something in his life to help him to mature and grow.
“The Army was somewhere for me to get my feet planted; transferring from being a kid in school to the adult life,” he said. “I just needed somewhere to start.”
Beahn said that going into his basic training, he set a really high standard for himself, but he soon learned how tough it could be.
“It was a really big-eye opener,” he said. “I learned a lot of leadership lessons. Basic training as a whole really benefited me.”
Beahn’s drill sergeant, Staff Sgt. Dean Weaver, said he saw a lot of growth in Beahn throughout the process and added Beahn will make a good leader and noncommissioned officer one day.
“He definitely was in the top 10 of the platoon,” Weaver said. “He’s a good kid, and he will go a long way.”
Beahn’s grandfather, Michael S. Williams, and Beahn’s father, Staff Sgt. Timothy Williams, traveled from South Carolina to see the completion of his journey.
His father currently serves in the South Carolina Army National Guard as an M1 armor crewman. His grandfather retired from the Army after 26 years of combined service, having served six of those years in the U.S. Navy.
“I’m glad he decided to come to the military,” said Michael Williams. “He is learning a lot, so now its time for him to pick up the staff and run with it.”
Michael laughed as he recalled the moment he found out his grandson had joined the Army.
“He had just told me that he had joined,” Michael said. “We never had the conversation about him thinking about it. I’d knew he’d be fine. He’s a good kid.”
Michael said he never boasted or talked to Beahn much about his famous great-grandfather, because their family was raised to have humble spirits and to always practice humility — a quality he says he can see in Beahn, who hopes to continue to grow through his military experience.
“I definitely want to rise through the ranks and work towards being a better leader and eventually become a tank commander,” Beahn said. “Ultimately I want to be someone others can come to for help with any situation. Not because they have to but because they feel comfortable doing so. I definitely want to progress through my career.”