Vet receives Bronze Star, Purple Heart for WWII service

May 23, 2008 4:36:22 PM PDT
On this Memorial Day, a World War II veteran was finally honored for his service to America. Eighty-two-year-old Chicago native Tom Beno was wounded while fighting in France and Holland during the war.

World War II had a healthy share of veterans who were certainly eligible for conduct medals, but at war's end, they were far more interested in coming home to family and girlfriends then sticking around to fill out paperwork for awards. Such is the case for Beno.

Only the men who served with him know the horrors that Tom Beno survived six-and-a-half decades ago - back when he was 18, an enlistee who became a paratrooper.

The day before D-Day, he was among those who were dropped behind enemy lines. He survived. Later, during Operation Market Garden, Beno's foxhole was hit. The solider next to him died instantly. Beno, though badly wounded, was patched up enough to fight in the Battle of the Bulge. Inside his helmet, he always carried a picture of his love.

"Half of Tom's company was killed. Everybody else was injured, but nobody claimed they were hurt," said Monica Beno, veteran's wife.

Tom Beno came home from the war, married Monica, lived his life and didn't care about medals. But later, fellow soldiers and his family worked to change that.

"We're here 64 years later with Tom and Monica to celebrate this great man and great service he gave to America," said Senator Dick Durbin, (D) Illinois.

On Friday, Tom Beno was the proud recipient of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart his actions in World War II. Lost government records made this day a bit of a challenge, but fellow vets verified that Tom Beno was more than deserving.

A stroke last year robbed Tom Beno of his ability to speak, but he is not bashful about trying.

Tom Beno never told Monica, his wife of 64-years, anything about the nasty stuff he went through. She learned of it only in recent years from other vets.

When Tom Beno was fighting in France, Holland and Belgium, his four brothers were fighting there, too. The reward - more meaningful than any medal - is that they all made it through to come home.

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