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Locals gather to honor veterans, recognize brave teen at ‘Community of Courage’ event
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Veterans Jim Beilfuss, left, and Paul Van Drie, right, react as one of Van Drie’s cornhole bags lands in the far board’s hole. - photo by Julia Fechter

Thirteen years ago, U.S. Army Cpl. Matthew B. Phillips gave his life protecting his comrades from an enemy grenade in Afghanistan. Friday night, 15-year-old Christian Beavers received the “Award of Courage” named after the late soldier.

BRAVE Beyond the Call gave Beavers the accolade during its “Community of Courage” event outside of Because Coffee, sponsored by Dawson-based 12U travel baseball team Ambush. 

The recognition honors a person who has shown courage and related qualities in the midst of challenging trials. This summer, Beavers suffered a skull fracture and two brain bleeds from an injury incurred from falling into a concrete dugout at a Florida baseball game. 

Beavers, a Ball Ground-based baseball athlete, played on a team with the oldest son of an Ambush coach.

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Teenager Christian Beavers was given BRAVE Beyond the Call’s “Matthew B. Phillips Award of Courage,” named after Michael Phillips’ late son. - photo by Julia Fechter

“It feels good,” Beavers said, “because I’m working toward the goal of getting back on the field.” 

Indeed, later this past weekend, the teen lined up for his first time at bat since the accident in a video shared to BRAVE Beyond the Call’s Facebook page.

“It may have been a walk, but I’m super proud of his dedication, determination and love for the game,” said his mother, Shannon Baker. 

Some of Cpl. Phillips’ family members, including his father, Michael, drove in from Alabama to see Beavers receive the award. Michael was living in Dawson County when his son was killed in action. 

BRAVE Beyond the Call strives to connect veterans with youth so that children of all ages and abilities can have a chance to give back to military service members. 

Maloney and other volunteers started the Dawson-based organization in 2019 with the goal of teaching youth about values like honor, respect and sacrifice.

 At first, the endeavor started with a boys’ baseball team raising funds on behalf of specific veterans. The players sent emails thanking the “warriors” for the opportunity to play on their behalf and sharing a bit about themselves. The veterans took to that gesture, with several of them or their wives contacting Mahoney’s group about doing something more. 

Since then, the nonprofit has expanded its endeavors to include a Christmas meetup and bowling event called “22-Strike Out.” For more information about these events, go to bravebeyondthecall.org. 

Many of the veterans and kids have developed friendships and will meet up for ice cream or school and athletic-based events. Mahoney called this dynamic of mutual support “incredible,” especially given its healing impact on the warriors. 

“This is what BRAVE is about,” she said, “bringing together Gold Star and veteran families.” 

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