Monday, May 03, 2010

Air Force Airman 1st Class Austin H. Gates Benson

Remember Our Heroes

Air Force Airman 1st Class Austin H. Gates Benson, 19, of Hellertown, Pa.

Airman 1st Class was assigned to the 54th Combat Communications Squadron, Robins Air Force Base, Ga.; died May 3. 2010 near Khyber, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained from a non-combat-related incident.

Joie Gates' bags sat on the living room floor of her Hellertown home this afternoon as she waited for U.S. Air Force airmen to pick her up and drive her to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

Gates' son, Austin H. Gates Benson, 19, an airman first class, died in Afghanistan from injuries sustained during a noncombat incident, according to the Department of Defense. Air Force officials said no further details were available at this time.

The following is from his Dad's FB page which can be found at:!/profile.php?id=1188001849&v=wall

Fred John Boenig: I learned something today, just like in the civil war, three people in uniform show up at your house to tell you your Son is dead. Somehow I wished I didn't answer that damn door.

Fred John Boenig: I can only thank you, I am truly humbled by the out pouring of friends. I'm sure in a day or two I will be totally devastated, but after talking to the woman that will be responsible for getting my son's body home, I realized when they bring that casket off that plane, my heart will just break in a million pieces. I won't be the first parent to feel this way, I just wish I was the last. Monday at 7:14pm

His casket arrived Tuesday night in Dover, Gates said.

"Every child is a loss, and I can't say mine is a greater loss than anyone else's," Gates said, "but I never expected it. He will be sorely missed."

"I'm going to miss being called mom," Gates said, adding that he was her only child.

Gates Benson graduated from Saucon Valley High School in June 2008 and left for basic training a month later. He was assigned to a combat communications unit, Gates said, in the Khyber Pass at a place called Torkham along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Gates Benson was a champion of student rights and responsibilities at the school, said Laboski. He once met with Laboski and then Principal Todd Gambos, on behalf of the student body, challenging the district's policy of having students wear ID badges on campus. He was extremely intelligent and a great debater, said Laboski.

It was his first tour of duty, Gates said, and he volunteered for the assignment. "He was really proud to serve his country," Gates said.

Three airmen arrived at her home Monday, Gates said, and were directed to the car dealership she works at in Flemington. She said watching the men come in through the door was every bit as awful and heart wrenching as it is depicted in movies. "They aren't there to tell you how great they think your son is," Gates said.

Former Saucon Valley High School principal Todd Gombos said Gates Benson was an independent thinker, an advocate for others and just a good kid. "He was the kind of man who was going to do things," Gombos said. "He was going to make his own path in life."

Gates last spoke to her son in late April and he told her that he felt humbled by his interactions with Afghans, many of whom live in abject poverty. "He said, 'Mom, I will come back and always be grateful for everything we have because these people have nothing,'" she said.

Air Force Airman 1st Class Austin H. Gates Benson was killed in a non-combat related incident on 5/3/10.

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