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Bennedsen honored at Seattle University
First Lt. Robert Bennedsen, the Vashon man who died while serving in Afghanistan last summer, was inducted into Seattle University’s Hall of Valor last week.
The induction on Wednesday, Nov. 17, came one day before the four-month anniversary of his death and was the first formal ceremony honoring Bennedsen since his memorial service on Vashon in August.
Seattle U created the Hall of Valor in 1994 to honor graduates who died in the line of duty. Bennedsen, 25, was killed in July by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, three weeks into his first tour of duty.
Bennedsen, who was an ROTC cadet at Seattle U and graduated from the school in 2008, is the eighth soldier to be inducted into the hall, and the first since the Vietnam War.
A frame with a hand-drawn portrait of Bennedsen, a plaque and his medals, joined the seven others in a small room in the school’s ROTC building.
he induction included a small, invitation-only ceremony honoring Bennedsen. Jamie Bennedsen, Robert’s older sister who grew up with him on Vashon and now lives in Tacoma, said the ceremony was beautiful but emotionally difficult.
“Honestly, it was really hard because it was rehashing those old emotions you try so hard to put away,” she said.
Several of the school’s ROTC faculty who knew and trained Bennedsen spoke. Jamie said they told funny stories about her brother, talked about how respected the young soldier was and spoke to how he had changed their lives.
“There were lots of laughs, lots of tears,” she said.
In what Jamie called the most powerful moment in the ceremony, Master Sergeant Ronilo Credito, a senior military instructor who trained Bennedsen, performed a roll call, calling by name several of the ROTC cadets in attendance.
One by one, they answered, “Here, Master Sergeant.”
Then Credito called Bennedsen’s name. After several repetitions of his name with no reply, taps were played.
“That was the worst part of the whole thing,” Jamie said. “It was the realization that he wasn’t there that was hard.”
Bennedsen’s parents, Scott and Tracy Bennedsen, were unable to attend the ceremony, as they were out state at the time. However, Jamie said her whole family was proud to see Bennedsen honored by Seattle U. She was pleased that the ceremony recognized not only her brother’s sacrifice, but the kind of person he was.
“It’s not about the war,” she said. “It’s about the death of someone amazing.”
Jamie, who is 28 and teaches middle school in Tacoma, videotaped the ceremony so Tracy could see it. She has done the same for other moments honoring Bennedsen, such as when she spoke at her middle school’s Veterans Day assembly.
“She gets everything,” she said. “She’s just not physically there, which is good because it’s really hard on them. They don’t need to go through it anymore.”
She said Bennedsen, too, would be pleased to know he was honored by his alma mater.
“On one hand he would probably be like ‘What’s the big deal? I was doing what I was supposed to.’ ... At the same time he would be so thankful for everything because that’s the kind of person he was,” she said.
Vashon continues to support Bennedsen’s platoon
With donations from the Vashon community, the Vashon Sportsmen’s Club has been able to send over 31 care packages, weighing a total of over 400 pounds, to Robert Bennedsen’s platoon, which is still stationed in Afghanistan. Shipping costs have also been completely covered by donations.
According to Robyn Hoffmann, a member of the club, the platoon of 45 men and 11 women sent a message of gratitude for the packages.
“They enjoy the fact that there are still people who support the troops, and they wanted to thank everyone for the time and thought that we have put into each package and the dedication that we have shown them,” she said.
The club is still collecting donations for care packages at Bank of America and James Hair Design. The names and addresses of the soldiers in Bennedsen’s platoon are also available at the donation site for those who would like to send their own cards or packages.
For more information, contact Robyn Hoffman at 463-6301.