Dale Benson - Private First Class
Dale Earl Benson was born in Waterloo, Iowa on March 19, 1947 to Grace and Earl Benson. Grace and Earl were both enrolled members of the Meskwaki, the Sac and Fox tribe of the Mississippi in Tama, Iowa.
Dale’s father, Earl, and uncle, Edward Benson both served in World War II. Edward enlisted as a code talker, using his native language to confound the enemy.
Dale was raised in the Tama-Toledo area, one of a family of six children – five boys, one girl. He attended Tama-Toledo grade schools and loved doing many of the things that Iowa boys loved to do – fishing, hiking and playing in neighborhood baseball games. He took over a small newspaper route and convinced more customers to subscribe, tripling the circulation. He also operated the film projection machine at the Mills Theater in Tama. In his own way, he confronted cultural differences and did not let them direct his life.
A high school classmate named Barbara Kacer recalled that in the early 1960’s, there wasn’t much interaction between Meskwaki kids and town kids, but she was aware of Dale and can still picture him sitting in biology class. She wrote to us saying, “I graduated from high school with Dale and although I do not have a lot of memories of him, those I do have are very clear to me and very special. Even after all these years I am not sure exactly why I hold those memories close -- I think it's because I've always thought he was an extraordinary person who was taken before his time in a questionable war. But, he fulfilled his responsibility and served.”
Dale was a slender and quiet young man and a good student, which aided his acceptance at Iowa State.
He graduated from Tama-Toledo High School in 1965 and starting in September, worked for three months on a section crew for the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad, trying to save some money.
In November, he enrolled at Iowa State declaring psychology as a major. He attended from winter to spring quarter, December 1965 to May 1966, but even his job with the railroad did not provide enough financing to stay in college.
He left ISU in a time of conflict and war and quickly became caught up in it, enlisting in the Army for a three-year hitch.
After basic training at Fort Campbell, Kentucky and engineering school at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, he came home for three weeks and left for Vietnam on November 29, 1966. He was stationed at Cu Chi with the 65th Engineers Battalion.
On an afternoon combat operation on January 15, 1967 in Binh Duong Province, Private First Class Benson was hit by fragments from the explosion of a hostile booby trap and died. He was 19 years old.
At the time of his death, Dale was the second Native American from Tama to die in Vietnam – both soldiers were brought home for burial in Tama.
Classmate Barb Kacer came home from college to attend Dale’s funeral. “Even now”, she says, “all these years later I feed a loss. I wonder what he would have done with his life had he lived. I am extremely pleased to know you are honoring Dale.”