Assembly/Taps Memorial Article:
time I talked to my brother-in-law, Pete, was in November 1965. I in my body
cast in New Jersey recovering from injuries incurred in Viet Nam and Pete from
his bed in Walter Reed Hospital where he was courageously waging a battle with
Hodgkin’s disease. We exchanged a few comments on the status of our families,
wished each other the best, and vowed to pray for one another. Pete’s last
phrase was, “Stick with the Army, it is the best thing that happened in many of
our lives.” How true!
born in Bronx, NY, on July 18, 1935, to Louis and Viola Benzinger. Resurrection
Ascension School, Rego Park, and De La Salle Institute, NY, were the settings
for his earlier formal education. Following high school, Pete attended Hunter
College with the goal of becoming a doctor. Pete worked part time to meet
financial obligations, also joining the New York Army National Guard. Through
the Guard, Pete became interested in leadership and the Army way of life. He
could not deny a growing love of the Infantry and all its associated challenges.
Guardsmen noted that he had an easygoing temperament and never turned away from
an assigned task. Pete was one of those soldiers who always managed to get the
job done without much fanfare. Encouraged by the officers and NCOs of his unit,
Pete became interested and applied for admission to USMA.
in the 46th Division during our Plebe year in Company L-2. We
remember him fondly as the “runt of a flanker company” and one of the “old men”
of the class.
during and after Camp Buckner that many of us really got to know him. Yearling
Year was one of hard work for Pete, but he thrived upon it, militarily and
academically. Can we ever forget his friendly “All right, Sir?” when he made his
rounds as Cadet-in-Charge-of-Quarters? It was also in 1957, following a football
game, that we met Pete’s parents. Pete stood tall on the steps of the old gym as
he introduced them, that ever-present warm smile on his face beaming with pride.
It was the last time many of us were to see his father, Louis. He unexpectedly
passed away that Thanksgiving.
friendship continued to grow. That year and the next, my fiancée, Marge, Pete,
and I regularly became a weekend threesome at the movies, for ice and
roller-skating, and at the hops. Pete played for the L-2 intramural football
team and was an active member of Catholic Acolytes, the Newman Forum, and the
German Club. His participation in the Goat Team’s victory over the Engineers
foretold the successful conclusion of the 1958 Army football season.
Christmas leave of Cow Year, on New Years Eve, 1958, Pete met my sister, Sophie,
while attending a party at my Dad’s tavern. She became his Sophie, and
his one true love.
exams in January of Cow Year brought academic dismissal. Solid Mechanics proved
temporarily too tough, but Pete was determined to return to West Point. He
studied on his own during the rest of the year, working part time to pay for a
Year came for the Class of 1960, Pete successfully passed the re-entrance exam
and was readmitted to USMA as a member of the Class of ‘61. He accomplished his
academic mission over the next two years, proudly wearing his “Turnout Star” on
his B-Robe and remaining a spark plug for numerous L-2 intramural squads. Many
more successes were to be his.
graduated proudly with the Class of 1961on June 6th, and, four days
later, married his Sophie in the Chapel of the Most Holy Trinity at West Point.
This joyous period was interrupted with the sudden death of his mother on the
day the Berlin Wall was erected.
Basic Infantry Officer Course, and Airborne and Ranger Schools, it was off to
Gelnhausen, Germany and the 48th Mechanized Infantry of the 3rd
Armored Division. Their first child, Viola Marie, was born in 1962 in the Army
hospital in Frankfurt.
the men of his unit. He pushed himself to master all the details of leading a
Mech/Infantry Platoon and later a Company. His heart was at home in this unit.
His proudest moments were when he was out on maneuvers, riding in the copula of
his command vehicle. His hard work and dedication earned him the coveted Expert
Marge and I
visited Pete and Sophie several times from Mainz, where we were stationed.
Thanksgiving, 1963, Viola Marie had turned one and Peter Louis, Jr., “Re-Pete”,
had just been born. It was to be our last happy visit to Gelnhausen. Over the
Easter holidays in 1964, the Benzingers and Baras celebrated together in Mainz.
A week later Sophie phoned from Gelnhausen to inform us that the family was
returning to the States. Pete had discovered a “lump” that required immediate
medical evaluation and treatment.
he would likely be offered a disability retirement, Pete and Sophie built a home
near my Dad’s in Linden, NJ. Pete was medically retired in 1965 in the rank of
Captain and went to work with my Dad. He was cautiously optimistic about his
future as a civilian even though he faced periodic trips to Walter Reed for
treatment and follow-up evaluations. Unfortunately, his condition worsened,
requiring hospitalization again at Walter Reed. After a brief but courageous
battle, the Lord called Peter home on November 27th 1965.
career as a commissioned officer lasted but four and a half years. In that short
time, however, he came to exemplify all of the attributes of a superb, and
dedicated officer, a proud and loving father and a devoted husband. All of us
who had the privilege of knowing Pete saw in his life the full measure of a true
son of West Point who, to the fullest, embodied our motto of “Duty, Honor,
can continue to see Pete in the eyes of his daughter, Viola Marie, those of her
children, Kyle, Caitlyn, and Cory, and those of his son, Peter, Jr.’s daughter,
Danielle. A proud grandmother four times over, Sophie continues to tend to
family matters as an extension of Pete’s love
He saw life for what it is:
Fleeting as a breath,
Brief as a penny candle,
Chancy, but tremendously consequential,
As a prelude to eternity.
He had a merry heart,
Because he had a quick soul:
Quick, that is, with a familiar knowledge
And a living love of God.
He was merry
Because he was going home…..
Memorial written by:
Ted Bara (USMA '60) with assistance from
Sophie Benzinger and Tom Magness