Roanoke WWII veteran laid to rest after decades of work to identify his remains
ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - U.S. Army Air Force Private First Class Edward Henderson (Pete) Benson, Jr., was killed March 22, 1945 on the South Pacific island of Biak. But it’s taken decades to identify his remains.
In March, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced Pfc Benson had been accounted for in January. Saturday, a military funeral service was held in Roanoke so he could be laid to rest.
”Today, other than the skeletal damage from the wreckage, there’s nothing left to create any doubt in anyone’s mind that these are the remains. The nearly full remains, full remains not comingled, but full remains of PFC Benson that we have today,” said Dr. James Benson, PFC Benson’s son and retired U.S. Marine Corps Colonel.
Colonel Benson was just a baby when his father was killed. But their paths crossed while he was a 1st Lieutenant stationed in the Philippines during the Vietnam War.
“They started to walk down towards the tomb of the unknown soldier but they veered their path and I realized they were coming to me and Colonel said to me in front of the dignitaries there, Lt. Benson, your father’s name is on that wall. My response was something like, sir I did not know my father was recognized here, thank you sir, and I saluted him.”
After the service at Oakey’s, the Benson family traveled to Evergreen Burial Park for the full military funeral service, at which veterans and community members felt was important to be.
“The importance of this is bringing someone home,” said Cecil McWilliams, commander of VFW Post 1264.
It was a time to pay their respects, something the weather wasn’t going to stop.
“It was pouring down rain out here, not a single person broke rank. That tells you something right there, no one left,” said McWilliams.
Colonel Benson was proud to be able to lay his father to rest, surrounded by family members. He appreciates the work the DPAA continues to do in identifying the men and women of the U.S. military who have been killed overseas.
“Nothing in this report should cast any doubt on the work of the nation’s efforts in bringing home its WIAs and KIAs. They are still seeking the remains of U.S. military personnel daily,” said Col. Benson.
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