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Originally published Monday, July 19, 2010 at 8:33 PM

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Vashon man killed by roadside bomb in Afghanistan

Vashon Island soldier Robert Bennedsen may have been trying to help his colleagues when he was killed by a roadside bomb Sunday in Afghanistan.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Vashon Island soldier 1st Lt. Robert Bennedsen may have been trying to help his colleagues when he was killed by a roadside bomb Sunday in Afghanistan.

The U.S. Army has yet to release details about the 25-year-old's death, but the officer's aunt, Bonnie Bennedsen, said that's her understanding — and it doesn't surprise her because her nephew was a fine man who always tried to do the right thing.

Lt. Bennedsen had deep local roots. He grew up on Vashon Island and graduated in 2004 from Vashon Island High School. He majored in business at Seattle University, graduating with a bachelor's degree in 2008.

More than anything, he loved action.

"Robert lived everything to the max," said Bonnie Bennedsen.

In high school, he was an outstanding football player and a star wrestler, according to his family. He won the school's top scholar-athlete award.

He also loved to scuba dive — especially in Hawaii, where he would spend vacations with his family.

Bonnie Bennedsen said her nephew served as a volunteer firefighter while in high school and at a young age became qualified to train other firefighters.

On his Facebook page, Lt. Bennedsen talks about another of his passions — restoring cars.

"Plans for the summer ... let's see ... work ... Oh 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 be pushing no less than 450 horsepower, mmmmm my baby car :). In a year and a half I'm moving to Alabama for flight school. When I graduate I wanna fly little birds for the 160th soar."

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.

Lt. Bennedsen's family said he enrolled in the Reserve Officer Training Corps while at Seattle U. In 2008, he helped run the summer ROTC program at Fort Lewis. He was then stationed in Germany.

Lt. Bennedsen was sent to Afghanistan less than a month ago, said his aunt.

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.

Lt. Bennedsen's body was due to arrive Monday on the East Coast and will be transported back to this area in about a week's time, said Bonnie Bennedsen. She said details for a memorial are still being finalized.

She said the family, in lieu of flowers, hopes donations will be used to improve the Vashon Island football field.

In addition to his sister, Lt. Bennedsen is survived by his parents, Tracy and Scott Bennedsen, of Vashon Island.

Nick Perry: 206-515-5639 or nperry@seattletimes.com.

Seattle Times news researcher Gene Balk contributed to this report.

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