Connellsville native honored during ceremony at Vietnam memorial
Robert James Benzio, a Connellsville native who served in the Navy from 1965 through 1969, never talked much about his time in the war, but he was proud of having served.
According to David Benzio, his brother, Robert Benzio was a 50-caliber gunner aboard a river patrol boat in Vietnam.
“He only spoke about the war three times,” said his brother, David, who lives near Connellsville.
But those conversations were enough to keep David, who served in the Army air defense command, from volunteering for Vietnam service.
“I was all gung ho until I talked to him,” said David Benzio.
Robert Benzio, who died of cancer on Sept. 19, 2001, was honored in a special service recently at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., with 120 other veterans. Those 121 served in the war but had their lives cut short by their service.
Robert Benzio's second wife, Jonell, 60, who lives near State College, attended the ceremony. She said the information on the 121, including their photos, will eventually be placed in a new museum being planned for the memorial.
Jonell said any Vietnam veteran who died of cancer may be honored by a ceremony and a spot in the future museum.
The immediate thought might be if Benzio's cancer was the result of contact with Agent Orange, the defoliant made from dioxin, among other chemical ingredients. The Veterans Administration now classifies chronic B-cell leukemia as a cancer caused by contact with the substance.
Jonell said she does not know if her husband had been exposed to Agent Orange during his tour. His cancer started in his lungs, then spread to his brain.
“I really don't know that,” she said about possible Agent Orange exposure.
She said her husband almost never talked about his Vietnam service.
Jonell said Robert's first wife died after they divorced. They had a son, Robert Jr. who is now about 45. Jonell and Robert had two daughters, Sara, 30, and Katharine, 29.
David and Jonell both said Robert was a “very caring” individual. He worked for the State Department of Public Welfare in Centre County after graduating from The Pennsylvania State University. Jonell also worked for DPW in the same office. She said her husband also helped start the Centre County food bank.
Karl Polacek is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-626-3538.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Connellsville man admitted drinking, fighting with victim before deadly 2013 crash, trooper testifies
- Fayette County judge refuses to dismiss dragging case against Hiller man
- Connellsville Area High School Chamber Ensemble awaiting word on sing-off
- Connellsville burning rules set to kick in
- Inaugural food, toy drive slated for Connellsville
- Everson volunteer firefighters set to sell hoagies
- Connellsville Council approves parking plans for proposed hotel
- Fayette inmate represents self at hearing
- Stanley Cup coming to Ice Mine in Dunbar Township
- Fallen Perryopolis police officer chased his dream
- Betters is recognized at Connellsville Canteen