Editor’s note: The Letter of the Month for November was originally published Nov. 11.
He’ll never truly die
Newly married, my husband and I spent the year 1965-66 in Fayetteville; we lived on a dirt road above Razorback Stadium. While ROTC groups marched among the stately oaks of Old Main and a trickle of anti-war protesters marched in front of the Student Union, we shared this curious time, with the unreality but all too real threat of the Vietnam War.
The war became very real for us, however, when we received word that my first cousin Harold George Bennett had died as a prisoner of the Viet Cong three weeks after we were married. My Aunt Pauline never accepted that George, first listed as a prisoner of war, had died. She fully expected him to step onto the porch, grinning. “Mama, I smell chicken and dressing.” Final word of his death was not confirmed until 1973. George has been honored many times as the hero he was, the most recent being the naming of the Perryville Post Office in his memory.
Master Sergeant Harold George Bennett, my soft-spoken cousin with the sandy hair and freckles, the shy but stubborn demeanor, was the first person from our state to die in the poorly named “Vietnam Conflict.” The family was told that he had bravely waved off a rescue helicopter and that he was killed for his refusal to participate in a propaganda film. We believe it; George wouldn’t have thought much of that demand!
A few years back, I had my first chance to visit the Vietnam Memorial in Washington. The monument, a wall of polished black marble, has names of the dead carved chronologically so that the deeper into the memorial you walk, the earlier the years you encounter.
At the very center of the memorial was a year with only 10 names, and my reflection was imposed over the glossy name of Harold George Bennett. Suddenly, I saw Harold George himself grinning, and the secret passed between us. Aunt Pauline was right. Harold George will never die.
Print Headline: Letter of the Month