When I was a high school freshman, I had a Western Civ teacher by the name of Peter Bonavedge (unsure of the spelling). I loved the guy. He was one of those individuals you could just tell by being around him was at peace with himself and the rest of the world. Mr. Benavedge always wore a suit and tie, had gray hair, combed straight back, and always looked every inch the way a teacher should have looked in those days, right down to his spit-shined black shoes.
I really loved this guy as a teacher and as a person. My guess is he is no longer of this world, but he is one of several good teachers that I had in high school that made me love history.
Mr. B had been a Captain in the Marine Corps, and he had landed on Iwo on Day One. He rarely talked about it, but I have to admit that the few times he brought it up are the only times I remember from his class. For when 'Cap' talked about Iwo, the lesson went from being abstract to being very concrete. Cap was there. This man WAS history.
Cap told us that one day on Iwo, one of the first days, when men were dying like flies, he had a young private come to him in a foxhole.
"Cap," the young man said. "I'm so scared. I just KNOW that if I go out today, I'm gonna get killed. Please don't make me go, Cap. I swear to you, I will go every other day, but I've had a premonition that if I go today, I'll die."
Cap was in a dilemma. As a captain of Marines, he was in charge of several platoons of men. If he let this man stay behind, he risked all. But if he made this man go, and the man died, he would have this man's death on his hands.
He let the man stay behind that day, and the man went on to fight galliently for Cap the rest of the time on Iwo---a battle that killed thousands of young Americans.
I was watching a show on Military Channel tonight about Iwo and about the vets who went back to it. It made me think of 'Cap' Benavage, my old history teacher, such a kind man, such a good and decent man, who dug deep and despite his better judgement let one young man live that day. What a hero you are. And how few know your story.
This blog entry is in honor of Cap Benavage, my old history teacher. God bless you, Cap.