Hear their stories

Published 10:24 pm Thursday, January 8, 2015

With a rapidly decreasing pool of men who actually lived through World War II, Americans who have an interest in learning about history and honoring those who made it are running out of time to get to know the heroes who fought for this great nation and to hear the stories of the battles they fought and the sacrifices they made to crush the threat of global fascism.

For years, a group of veterans and civilians with a special desire to connect with this Greatest Generation has met for breakfast once a month at Bunny’s Restaurant. The focus of this group has long been on those who survived the war in the Pacific theater, with special attention to those who were taken prisoner and tortured by the Japanese Imperial Army.

A popular movie, based on the life of WWII prisoner of war and Olympic gold medalist Louis Zamperini has re-awakened interest in the trials POWs like him faced and in the service they did for their nation during the war. Sadly, Zamperini did not live to see the movie released, having died just last July.

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But folks who visited Bunny’s for breakfast on Wednesday had a chance to meet and chat with another hero who endured trials and abuse similar to what Zamperini did while in captivity. Alcide S. “Bull” Benini, an Italian-born 93-year-old U.S. Army and Air Force veteran, captivated those attending with tales of valor — made all the more valorous by the fact that the actions taken by Benini and his comrades had little to do with showing courage and much to do with demonstrating honor. And in the case of Benini, his actions were also on behalf of an adopted country, not his homeland.

Benini fought in the Luzon, Bataan and Defense of the Philippines campaigns between Dec. 7, 1941 and April 7, 1942. He saw some of the hardest and most dangerous service of the war in those places. And in captivity he saw some of the most degrading and deadly actions by the enemy.

Benini was finally liberated from captivity on Oct. 15, 1945. A grateful nation brought him and his brothers in arms home to celebrations and proclamations. The least that nation can do for them today is to hear their stories.