Page 56 - Foreign Service Journal - April 2013

This is a SEO version of Foreign Service Journal - April 2013. Click here to view full version

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »
56
APRIL 2013
|
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
AFSA NEWS
Nearly 40 years have passed
since retired U.S. Agency
for International Develop-
ment Foreign Service ofcer
Michael D. Benge spent time
as a prisoner of war in Viet-
nam. On Feb. 13, Benge fnally
received the Purple Heart in
recognition of the wounds he
sufered while in captivity.
David E. Eckerson, USAID
counselor, presented the
medal at a ceremony at the
National Press Club in Wash-
ington, D.C.
THE PURPLE
HEART
The Purple Heart is a military
medal given in the name of
the president of the United
States to every service mem-
ber (and some civilians) who
is wounded while serving
in a war or other specifed
incursion.
AFSA also presented him
with new Medals of Heroism
and Valor, replacements for
the original medals he had
received, but which were
later stolen from his home.
Family, friends and col-
leagues joined in celebrating
Mr. Benge’s achievements.
CAPTURED
On Jan. 31, 1968, FSO
Michael Benge was captured
near Ban Me Thuot, South
Vietnam, when he tried to
rescue several people
working with International
USAID Ofcer Receives His Purple Heart After 40 Years
BY JENNI FER LOWRY, COMMUNICAT IONS INTERN
Voluntary Services (a private
nonproft organization
founded in 1953 that placed
American volunteers in
development projects in third
world countries) during the
Tet Ofensive.
For the next fve years,
he was held in a Prisoner of
War camp. Prisoners were
chained together, forced to
move from encampment
to encampment and, when
stationary, were kept in cages
with nothing to eat but boiled
manioc.
NEAR DEATH
While in captivity, Benge
contracted cerebral malaria
and was near death. When
speaking of his bout with
malaria, Mr. Benge said, “I
still had some strength left
and I made up my mind that I
wouldn’t give them the satis-
faction of seeing me die.”
He credits his strength to
his colleagues and friends
who were also taken prisoner
with him; the same friends
he sadly watched die and
was forced to bury. His
will to survive continued
to keep him alive for more
than 27 months in solitary
confnement.
MEDALS OF
HERO I SM AND
VALOR
After he was released, Benge
was awarded the Medal of
Heroism and the Medal of
Valor for his acts of courage
and bravery while in Vietnam.
RETURN I NG HOME
“It was great to return to
America and be back in a
country, even with all its
social ills, where one can
enjoy the freedom of speech,
the freedom of thought
and the freedom of political
choice in the free world.
These are things that a
are still unknown to those in
the lands where I was held as
a POW,” refected Benge.
Michael Benge resides
in Falls Church, Va., and
is a single parent to two
daughters. He remains active
in Prisoner of War/Missing In
Action afairs, and continues
to be interested in Southeast
Asian political issues.
n