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September 8, 2002

 

 

War Hero Is Remembered

By BILL DUHART Courier-Post Staff HADDON HEIGHTS

Mike Crnkovich remembers the moment he thought he was a goner.

His flak jacket had just helped him cheat death by shielding him from a rifle blast in the middle of the night on a hill in the Korean peninsula 50 years ago.

Then two grenades rolled into his foxhole. But fate intervened again. As Crnkovich crouched, Edward C. Benfold, a 20-year-old Navy medic from Audubon, scooped up the grenades, leaped out and hurled himself at a line of oncoming enemy soldiers.

Benfold died Sept. 5, 1952 on a place the soldiers called Bunker Hill.

On Saturday, Crnkovich, 73, was among more than 300 people who gathered at St. Mary's Church to mark the 50th anniversary of Benfold's heroic death. Crnkovich came from Silverton, Idaho, to honor a guy he'd known for only two days.

``He gave me another 50 years to my life,'' Crnkovich said.

Benfold was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously in 1953. In 1996, a guided missile destroyer in the Pacific Fleet, the USS Benfold, was commissioned in San Diego in his honor.

A simultaneous ceremony was held Saturday on that ship, during maneuvers off the coast of California, according to ADVERTISEMENT - CLICK TO ENLARGE

Craig E. Burgess, who co-wrote a book on Benfold and helped organize the St. Mary's service.

``We didn't have to wait to wave a flag. We've been doing it all along,'' Burgess said.

Audubon High School's Project Memorial Foundation Committee also helped organize the program. The student-run group established a granite memorial several years ago to Benfold, fellow Korean War veteran Nelson Y. Brittin, and World War I veteran Samuel M. Sampler, all Medal of Honor recipients from Audubon. The student group also organizes annual Memorial Day parades to honor veterans.

``It's such an honor to honor these great men, especially the ones who have risked everything for us,'' said Robert Walsh, a committee member and a senior at Audubon High School.

Edward J. Benfold was only 4 months old when his father died. He stood next to his mother, Dorothy Waida, before the service. They were both thankful that Benfold's memory remains vivid.

``It's wonderful that people have done all these things in memory of him,'' said Waida, 70, of Audubon. ``He gave his life for his country.''

 

 

2002, by Courier Post Online
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