Patrick Henry Benze
Specialist Four
Army of the United States
O'Neill, Nebraska
March 19, 1947 to March 26, 1969
PATRICK H BENZE is on the Wall at Panel W28, Line 42

Patrick H Benze
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Patrick H Benze


Pat Benze

Pat Benze Close up with Mercury

Pat next to his Mercury

Pat next to his Mercury

Cowboy Pat Benze

Pauline Benze received the letter 17 years ago and hadn't looked at it again until last weekend. The letter, from Ken Alfman of Uniontown, OH, tells how Mrs. Benze's son, Patrick, was killed in Vietnam.

The two soldiers met in Oakland, CA, when they were shipped to VietNam and became friends. "We ended up flying to VietNam together. When we got there, we thought we would surely be split up and sent to different units," he said. "But we didn't and we even ended up being in the same squad."

Arriving in Nam November 1, the two men acquired nicknames. Benze was "Cowboy," I guess because he liked the rodeo and loved animals so much"; Alfman's was "Chunky," I don't know how I got it but it stayed with me the whole time."

Young Cowboy Pat Benze

The two men were in a mortar platoon, staying in landing zones to provide support to troops in the bush "which was a lot safer than being out in the jungle," Alfman wrote. "Pat and I were very close. We shared the same bunker which he and I built just large enough for the two of us. We were together constantly and one thing we did a lot of was talk."

"We talked about everything under the sun. But most of all, we talked about home and our families. He loved you, his wife and sisters all very much."

In early March the two men were tapped for an infantry squad due to losses in their company and they ended up in the same rifle squad. "We spent most of the month of Mach out in the jungle," Alfman wrote. "We seen a lot of action and we were both pretty well worn

"On the morning of March 25 (1969), our company was airlifted back to the landing zone, the same one we were at before we had to go back to the field. About 4 in the afternoon our platoon leader came to our squad and said he needed two guys to go on an ambush that night."

"Well, this made everyone in our squad mad because that meant two of us had to go out from the landing zone and set up an ambush by ourselves, which was really risky, and then come back to the landing zone in the morning."

"We had a thing in our squad that whenever we had to choose who had to do something, we would draw straws to see who had to do it. So we drew straws to see who had to go on ambush that night. Pat was one of the first to draw and he got a long one, which meant he didn't have to go. I drew next and got a short one, which meant I was one of the two who had to go."

"There were seven guys in our squad, so that left five guys to stay on the landing zone that night, plus the rest of the company which was about 125 men. I thought I was getting a bum deal by having to go on ambush while everyone else got to stay back but we did draw straws, so what could I say, I lost."

"So that evening, myself and the other guy went about halfway down the mountain and set up our ambush. Everything was fine until about 2 a.m. Then all hell broke loose on the landing zone." "The fighting went on until dawn. All we could do was listen over the radio and hear what was going on all night."

"When morning came and everything was over we go clearance to come back to the landing zone. When we got there we couldn't hardly believe our eyes. It looked like a tornado had gone through the place."

"I was on my way back to the bunker our squad was in when the company commander stopped me and said that Pat and the rest of our squad all had been killed. "They were all inside the bunker when it was hit by a rocket, killing everyone inside of it."

"I just couldn't believe it, all those guys killed so senselessly. That afternoon we had services for all the guys that were killed. There was a total of 19 killed and about 30 wounded." Alfman wrote that he was shot through the left elbow on April 7 and medevaced to Japan and then home. He was medically retired from the Army Mar. 23, 1970, with a 50 per cent disability and only partial use of his left hand and arm.

Enclosed in the letter was a picture of "Chunky" and "Cowboy" together and one with other members of their squad.

–– Transcribed from a faded newspaper article submitted
by Dan Barlow, Company C, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry,
1st Cavalry Division, Vietnam.

The report from the field to the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) states: TOAN THANG (BINH DUON PROVINCE) – At approximately 0415 hours [26 March 1969], an element of the United States 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) in a night defensive position 8 mi NNE of Dau Tieng received an unreported number and type of mortar rounds followed by a ground attack by an unknown size enemy force.

The enemy employed heavy small arms, automatic weapons and Rocket Propelled Grenade fires while the troops returned fire with automatic weapons. As action continued, artillery and helicopter gunships along with USAF AC–47 aircraft supported the defenders. Contact was lost about an hour later when the enemy withdrew. No enemy were reported to have penetrated the position, however 2 enemy dead were on the barbed wire. In addition, 1 crew served weapon and 2 individual weapons were captured.

United States casualties were 8 killed in action and 17 wounded in action.

There were actually 9 men lost that morning during the attack on the landing zone. They were:

–– The Virtual Wall

Mom Pauline & Sister Nancy

   (Editor's note: – This year is the 10th anniversary of the Veterans' Day 1982 dedication of the VietNam Veteran's Memorial in Washington, D.C. It is a place of healing from the war with special meaning to the families and friends of those who died in that war.)

The Wall – our nation's memorial to the men who died in the VietNam War – took on another added meaning for an O'Neill family the week before Veteran's Day this year, thanks to a painting by a Washington, D.C. – area artist.

Reprints of "When the Wall Weeps," a painting by Marj Watson of Falls City, VA., have been on the marker for several months, showing the Three Servicemen superimposed on a section of the VietNam Veterans Memorial.

One of those ads, in VietNam Magazine, attracted the attention of Dong Jarman of rural Chambers last summer and he contacted Pauline Benze. Mrs. Benze pointed to the top of the painting to the only full name in the painting – Patrick H. Benze – her son, killed at an Army fire base 23 years ago, shortly before Easter.

Pauline said she contacted her daughter, Nancy Benze Shadle of Columbus, who talked to the artist and ordered a couple of paintings, one for each of them. Nancy brought her mother's copy of the painting to O'Neill Saturday and talked about the painting, her conversations with the author and what the painting means to her.

Ms. Watson said she did the work for a National Park Service competition which called on artists to show "the essence of the park." She chose the VietNam Veterans memorial "because of the strong emotions associated with it ... it is my favorite of all Washington's Monuments.

She went to the memorial to take some pictures, planning to return to take some others, and ended up taking a picture of panel 28W, which had a reflection of the American flag mirrored over the names. It was raining lightly, she said, and the pictures she got back brought to mind a saying she had heard earlier, "It is said that when it rains, the Wall weeps."

Ms. Watson said she drew in the service men first and then put in the names from the panel, as they. Only one full name appeared – that of Pat Benze – and she finished with "the name of someone unknown to me, (someone who's name) would be the same as my own ... Watson".

Coincidence? Ms. Watson said she didn't lose any family members in the war but seeing that name on the wall brought the war closer to her in a special way. In her conversation, Nancy said she was the first person to call the artist and talk to her about the work. Ms. Watson was so impressed by Nancy's caring, she said, that she asked for a picture of Pat.

"She was real pleased that her painting had touched someone and she wants to meet with me if I ever get back to Washington. She's very sincere, very touched by The Wall. "I wish I could go out there this year, to the 10th anniversary of the Wall's dedication.

"I was overwhelmed that of the 58,000 names on the Wall, the only one that showed up completely was that of Pat," Nancy said. "Pat is the last Benze in the United States so it immortalizes his name. When I've gone to the Wall, I've seen posters for sale and I'd always thought,' Gee, I wish Pat's name was on one of those' – and there it is."

Nancy said she still has bad feelings about losing her older brother in the War – Pat was four years older and was both big brother and, in a way, a surrogate father when their dad died when Pat was 12 and Nancy was eight. "Seeing his name there helps in the healing process," she said, "but I feel sad that only a few names are there. This painting – and the Wall – is about all of them and their families."

Nancy said she likes the Traveling Wall, the scale model, better than the Wall in D.C. "because it's personal, like they're coming home. When I went to Washington to see it, I wanted it to be private but there were too many tourists around.

"When the Wall came to Columbus, I went about 2 in the morning when I could be alone. When my daughter went to the Traveling Wall with me, it touched her and she cried. She didn't know Pat but I knew how much he meant to her. The Wall is amazing to me," she said. "After all these years the people still get together, the camaraderie, the feelings ... "

"I had a dream about Pat two nights ago," Nancy said. "The door never closes. He's always on my mind. I still miss him a lot; I don't know if I'll ever heal. I don't want Pat to ever be forgotten."

"A lot of people thought he was an ornery teenager and he was, but he was always honest when he got into trouble. Pat was a very neat, very special person. He was kind to everyone, especially older people. Se didn't have a lot when we grew up but Pat had a lot of empathy for others who had less."

Nancy said the painting will be the first thing of Pat's that she's put up in her home. "When I first saw the print when I went to pick it up after I had it framed and they set it in their display window, I started to cry," she said. "I've got a picture of Pat with his pet dog in 'Nam, the last letter he wrote to me, the Easter card that the Army returned to me because he died before he received it, some other things that are special.'

Nancy and her mother look at the painting, in silence, each lost in their own thoughts, their bond to a painting and their love for their son and brother shining through the glass on the frame, their unseen tears mingling with the rain on the Wall.

Ms. Watson, knew her writing on the Wall and how the artwork came into being, said the painting "was controlling me, taking me in a direction in which I'd never worked before. I watched the figures take form, the texture begin to look like metal. The entire process became intuitive, not thought out ... it seemed to flow from a source deep within me and onto the paper ... it was as though a great inner strength transferred itself into the image being created."

"I have believed since its very beginning that 'When the Wall Weeps' is meant to be a part of the healing process. To me it speaks of pain and sorrow, strength and beauty, pride and honor." Ms. Watson said the Wall is "the catalyst" to move veterans, their families and the families of he men memorialized on the Wall "through their own recovery and into doing something about the recovery of others. Those of us who can must reach out to those who suffer, for the greatest pain of all is that which takes place inside."

"The best we can offer is to try to understand, to lend our support where possible, and to love them not only in spite of what they have been through, but because of it."

–– Transcribed from a faded newspaper article submitted
by Dan Barlow, Company C, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry,
1st Cavalry Division, Vietnam.

The Wall that Weeps

The Wall That Weeps

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