The Kenosha History Center has a new display that honors the 14 soldiers from Kenosha County who are still listed as “missing in action” — along with one who finally came back home in 2014.
“Kenosha’s Missing, Not Forgotten” tells the story of Staff Sgt. James VanBendegom, who was born in 1948 and then raised and educated in Kenosha.
He volunteered for the Army in January 1967 and died in July 1967.
After years of being listed as missing in action, he was identified and returned to Kenosha through the work of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
According to that agency, there are still more than 81,500 American service members who are missing in action since World War II.
Through the agency’s work — and thanks to advances in genetics, along with the cooperation of former enemies and years of research — the number of soldiers listed as MIA continues to shrink.
In 2014, VanBendegom was laid to rest 47 years after dying of his wounds in a North Vietnamese field hospital in Cambodia.
While his burial in Kenosha on Veterans Day in 2014 brought some sense of closure to his family, History Center officials said, “many families are not so fortunate.”
Along with VanBendegom’s story, the display also profiles one of Kenosha’s missing soldiers, U.S. Marine Capt. David Leet of Somers, and one of Kenosha’s found, Casimir Lobacz.
Also included is a list of all of Kenosha’s missing in action since World War I.
The exhibit will run through the end of the summer.
“Please join us in remembering those who have not come home,” History Center officials said.
A family remembers
At the 2015 Wisconsin American Legion First District POW/MIA Silent March, Bob VanBendegom talked about his brother, James.
In their last conversation, Bob asked his brother if he knew why he was going to Vietnam.
“Without hesitation he replied with a resounding ‘yes’,” Bob said. “At the time, it seemed to be resonating more from a soldier than a brother.”
Bob VanBendegom, who served in the Air Force in Vietnam, said for his family, service was an unwritten code: Without hesitation, you served your country.
“Within less than a month of last seeing him, my brother had succumbed to his battlefield wounds and died a prisoner of war,” Bob told the 2015 crowd. “Like thousands of other POW/MIAs, he will always remain a friend, a son and a brother whose sacrifice must not be forgotten.”
Bob VanBendegom also urged those in the 2015 audience to serve, not necessarily in the military, but to serve by reaching out and helping others in need within the community. By doing so, the legacy of service goes on and honors those who remain unaccounted for, he said.
Source : Kenosha News