Sunday, July 18, 2010

Army 1st Lt. Robert N. Bennedsen

Remember Our Heroes

Army 1st Lt. Robert N. Bennedsen, 25, of Vashon, Wash.

1st Lt. Bennedsen was assigned to 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, Vilseck, Germany; died July 18, 2010 in Qalat, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when insurgents attacked his unit using an improvised explosive device.

A 25-year-old soldier from Vashon Island was killed while serving in Afghanistan.

Robert Bennedsen had deep roots on the island, and a lot of people are rattled by his death "Robert's a young man that everybody knew and loved," said Bonnie Bennedsen, Robert's aunt.

She says her nephew was a young man who was filled with lots of life and high energy, and who pushed the limits academically and physically.

"Robert found a new way to do everything," she said. "(He) was curious and interested in everything and everybody around him."
Her understanding is that her nephew was stationed in Qalat and was running supplies to remote outposts. Over the weekend, an ambulance in his convoy drove over a roadside bomb and exploded, she said.

She was told he jumped out of his vehicle to see if he could lend assistance to those in the ambulance. It was then that he stepped on a roadside bomb and was killed, she said.

Donna Kellum’s son Nathan – who graduated from Vashon High School two years after Bennedsen – ships off to Afghanistan next month for a yearlong deployment. She said Bennedsen’s death is a stark reminder of the danger her son will face. “(During) my son’s first tour, I did not think about him dying,” she said, fighting back tears. “This brings it all into reality.”

The same goes for 27-year-old Mallory Griffith. A lifelong Vashon resident, she said she never thought of the island as a place with military ties. On Vashon, there’s a good number of hippies and people who don’t support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; she recalled an incident a few years ago when a publicly displayed sign encouraging locals to support the troops was defaced, its original message rewritten to express anti-war, anti-George W. Bush sentiment.

Bennedsen, a First Lieutenant in the Army, based out of Germany, was killed over the weekend when insurgents attacked his unit with a bomb in Afghanistan.

His family found out Sunday night.

Bennedsen graduated from Vashon Island High School in 2004 as a star athlete in football and wrestling. It's on the school's field where he played and where a memorial service is being planned. Bennedsen went on to major in business at Seattle University, where he was part of the ROTC program. He had been in Afghanistan for only a few weeks.

At the Vashon Island Fire Station, there is also deep sadness as all throughout high school, Bennedsen volunteered as a firefighter Explorer. Firefighters said he was a delight to be around.

"With all of those thoughts of what he accomplished, it's even more of loss to know that this individual who did so much and had so much potential is now gone," said Mike Kirk, who as both a volunteer firefighter and Bennedsen's middle school principal.

A 25-year old man whose passions ranged from rebuilding cars to scuba diving, his family worried about his deployment to such a dangerous place. They say his sacrifice, and everything else about him, will always be remembered.

"I think there are a lot of very fine young men and women serving in the military forces, who are all heroes," Bonnie Bennedsen said. "Robert is my hero, but they should be heroes for all of us."

His sister Jamie Bennedsen, of Tacoma, said her brother had wanted to be a serviceman since he was a little kid. "It was his lifelong dream," she said. "He was the most caring, respectful person I have ever met in my life," she added.

From his Facebook page:
I like sailing (in any weather), sky diving, I also scuba dive, year round. Before coming to Seattle University I was a fire fighter and mechanic. I love to spend time out doors hiking and skiing/snowboarding. plans for this summer...lets and finish my 67 camaro rs/ss. i have the engine at the race shop now, its nothing too fancy, just a 350ci small block. i hope to pushing no less than 450 horsepower. mmmmm my baby car :) in a year and a half im moving to alabama for flight school. when i graduate i wanna fly little birds for the 160th soar.when i get out i would like to go back to the fire dept. im sure just about everything will change in the next year so im going to play it day by day. feel free to contact me if you would like. and im out!!

At Bennedsen's memorial, the fire department will pay special tribute, in addition to military honors. The service is set for Aug. 1 at Vashon Island High School.

Lt. Bennedsen is survived by his parents, Tracy and Scott Bennedsen, of Vashon Island and sister Jamie Bennedsen, of Tacoma.

Army 1st Lt. Robert N. Bennedsen was killed in action on 7/18/10.

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