Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Navy Hospitalman Benjamin D. Rast

Remember Our Heroes

Navy Hospitalman Benjamin D. Rast, 23, of Niles, Mich.

Hospitalman Rast was assigned to 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve; stationed at Naval Medical Center, Expeditionary Medical Force Detachment, San Diego; died April 6, 2011 northeast of Patrol Base Alcatraz, Helmand province, Afghanistan, while conducting a dismounted patrol.

His family calls him a hero, his friends, a happy person who loved football, the University of Michigan, and his country. Now the Niles community is grieving the loss of 23-year-old hometown sailor Ben Rast after he was killed while serving in Afghanistan.

Ben's father, Robert Rast, told NewsCenter 16 that Ben was the best son a man could ask for.

Rast's former girlfriend and high school sweetheart Nicole Ignowski says she's known Ben since she was 14 years old, and learning of his death has been one of the hardest moments of her life. "I dated him for like five years," Ignowski said, choking back tears. "So I like grew up with him. You know, I'm only 21 so he was with me for like a fourth of my life."

Ben was a 2006 graduate of Brandywine High School, and while he was a student football was his one true passion. Ignowski recalled watching him play his senior year. She said he was injured during the second game of the season, but continued to cheer his team on from the bench at every practice and game.

After graduating high school, Ben went on to study at Lake Michigan College. He majored in law enforcement and was a member of the Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society.

Ignowski said it had always been Ben's dream to trade his high school football uniform for the uniform of a sailor. Ben joined the Navy and was first stationed in California. Then he volunteered to go to Afghanistan.

Ben arrived there in February. For the first couple of weeks, his father said he was on a base and was relatively safe. Then he was sent out on patrols.

Ignowski said Ben's death has crushed her, but she takes comfort in the fact that he got to experience life and live out his dream. "I'm just happy that he got to, in such a short time, experience the things he wanted to experience," she said. "He died doing something that he was really passionate ... really wanted to do, and I don't think he would have any regrets about that," Ignowski said crying.

Ben Rast's death is currently being investigated by the Navy.

Funeral arrangements for Rast are pending. His body is expected to be flown into the South Bend Regional Airport sometime next week.

His family is eager for answers in his death. Rast's father fears that, because Ben was hit by a hellfire missile, that he may have been accidentally killed by friendly fire.

Navy Hospitalman Benjamin D. Rast was killed in action on 4/6/11.

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