Seattle University honors Robert Bennedsen, graduate killed in Afghanistan
A ceremony Wednesday honored 1st Lt. Robert Bennedsen of Vashon Island, a 2008 Seattle University business administration and ROTC graduate who was killed in Afghanistan in July.
Seattle Times staff reporter
There are three dog tags that now are part of the legacy of 1st Lt. Robert Bennedsen, of Vashon Island, who was all of 25 and had been in Afghanistan less than a month when he was killed July 18 by a roadside bomb near a town called Qalat.
There was an understated ceremony Wednesday morning at Seattle University to honor Bennedsen, a 2008 business administration and ROTC graduate from the college.
The school had seven graduates killed during the Vietnam War.
Bennedsen was its first war casualty since then, and a drawing of him and a plaque in his honor were placed in a small room called the Hall of Valor at the school's ROTC building.
His sister, Jamie Bennedsen, 28, a Tacoma middle-school teacher, attended the service.
Ever since her brother's body arrived back home, she has worn around her neck one of two dog tags attached to handles on the casket.
As the morning went on, and she talked about her brother, with whom she'd e-mail and talk with regularly over the Internet, her eyes turned red as tears welled up.
"I've put up a good front, that I'm OK," said Bennedsen. "I'm not. I don't sleep at all. You don't know what to do, what to say."
When she does manage to sleep, she said, there are the dreams.
She had just a dream in which she was with her brother in Germany, where he had been stationed before being sent to Afghanistan.
"It's like I had reversed time," she said.
But then the reality of her brother's death is back. The dog tag reminds her.
Her dog tag has an "H" stamped on the bottom. The other dog tag, worn by her father, Scott Bennedsen, had an "F" stamped on it.
Jamie said that an Army casualty officer who assisted the family explained that four soldiers were shipped on the flight to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, and the caskets needed to be identified by name and also which ends of the caskets had the head, and feet.
Military tradition is that a coffin is always carried feet first, to signify the individual is walking off the battlefield or with fellow soldiers.
The sister said that her mother, Tracy Bennedsen, has the actual dog tag worn by her son.
Her parents could not attend the ceremony at Seattle University, she said, as they were in Hawaii, where they live half of the year and help take care of Tracy Bennedsen's mother.
But the parents certainly had been involved in various events honoring their son on Vashon, as the small community came together.
The locals had known Bennedsen as a volunteer firefighter, wrestler in high school and a running back on the Vashon High School football team who had gained more than 400 yards in just one game.
In Afghanistan, said Jamie, her brother was trying to help two soldiers in his unit who were stuck inside their vehicle after being hit by an IED, an improvised explosive device.
She said her brother carried one soldier to safety and then on his way back to help the second soldier was hit by an IED and killed instantly.
At the Seattle University ceremony, about 100 people filled the Chapel of St. Ignatius, including five rows filled with the school's ROTC students, of which there are 69. "Taps" was played before the group walked some four blocks to the Military Science Department.
Among those speaking was Master Sergeant Ronilo Credito, a senior military instructor at the school. He's 39 and has done a stint in Iraq.
He spoke extemporaneously at the service, telling some stories about Bennedsen.
Credito spoke of his former student in the present tense.
He said he had tried to write down what he'd say at the service, and would end up crumpling the paper.
Credito said, "I hate using the past tense."
Erik Lacitis: 206-464-2237 or email@example.com
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