Carnegie Mellon University

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June 15, 2012

Marine Hopes To Send Families to Disney World

By Heidi Opdyke

For years, Marine Lt. Col. Stephen R. Beck, executive officer of Carnegie Mellon's Naval ROTC program, has been an advocate for families of fallen soldiers.

Beck is retiring July 1 from the Marine Corps and will be leaving the ROTC unit, but not Pittsburgh.

He has big plans here.

In 2004, Betty Welke, mother of the late Marine Lance Cpl. Joe Welke, asked him if there was something she could do to help other families.

"I'm not used to saying 'no' to Gold Star mothers," Beck said, referring to a term given to mothers and widows of military personnel who die during war.

So in response, he founded the Remembering the Brave Foundation dedicated to preserving the memories of service men and women and honoring their families in their time of enormous loss. (Read more about Beck's work at

"Their stories deserve to be told. If we don't listen, these stories of heroism will be lost to future generations," Beck said.

The group shares the stories in several ways. An annual ceremony allows families to meet with service members from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, who served with the fallen soldiers. They listen to detailed stories of their loved ones' final moments, and the families are presented with the medals and citations due. These black-tie ceremonies rely on donations and have occurred in Colorado, Washington, D.C., and California.

The group is planning a ceremony in Pittsburgh in 2013. Until then, he has his hands full organizing Remembering the Brave - Legacies of Valor Children's Ceremony in Orlando on "Make a Difference Day," Oct. 27. Currently the nonprofit is sponsoring a trip to Florida for 25 widows, a widower and about 60 children.

"My hope that while there we can get them to Disney World," Beck said. "We're budgeting $2,800 per family into the plan for this incredible weekend, and active service members will present the children with fully mounted sets of medals representing their parent's service to this nation," said Beck, who is making the plaques himself over the summer. Each will have an image of the child's parent on the plaque with a special quote from the parent to the child, and the parent's medals mounted above the image.

Meanwhile, the Remembering the Brave Hall of Heroes continues to develop, and more people are raising money for more 10- by 8-foot displays that include the fallen hero's name, face and deeds.

"I anticipate having four to five more built this summer," Beck said, "and I've been offered land on which to build the Remembering the Brave Hall of Heroes Museum, so if that comes through it will be a very exciting few years ahead."

For more information visit