Family sent 11 to serve
Go ahead and color Bob Bennette’s family red, white and blue, if you must.
By happenstance, three generations of his brood have served in the U.S. armed forces in careers that have spanned more than a century.
While visitors at the Memorial Wall in Memorial Park in Grass Valley may look on in amazement at the 11 granite plaques that bear ties to the Bennette lineage, Bob Bennette will spend this Veterans Day thinking about something else – his next globe-trotting adventure, his blossoming orchid hobby or simply when the rain might stop.
He thinks of his military service not as an heroic exercise, but as something he was asked to do.
Bennette was a member of the Army Air Corps and its successor, the U.S. Air Force, who served on four continents during World War II as a bombardier and navigator. His father served during the Spanish-American War, and his sons had tours of duty in Vietnam and with the Navy and Air Force. Two of his brothers and his mother also served, and his wife, Barbara, was a member of the WAVES, Women Accepting Voluntary Emergency Service.
Their names, and the names of his stepfather and nephew, are among the nearly 1,000 etched in the Memorial Wall.
Bob Bennette insists there’s no coincidence as to why so many members of his family served.
“We all wanted to join. At the time, it was your duty,” Bennette says of growing up in Santa Monica and accepting the call. Bennette was a grown man with three children before he enlisted. He couldn’t join earlier, he said, without permission from his first wife.
But he still wanted to go.
“You went to the movies and heard all the songs; it made you all gung-ho,” said Bennette, 83, who served from 1943 to 1963.
Barbara Bennette, his wife of 53 years, said she “had a ball” serving as a WAVE at Camp Parks in Livermore.
“To me, it was a whole new ball game,” she said. “Where else could I make $52 a month and meet all kinds of new people?”
To Bob Bennette, “it was a job, and we did it.” He has no medals for valor or honor.
Not to say he’s not proud; it’s just that his military career was simply one part of Bennette’s life before moving on to the business world and, lately, his vocation: globe-trotting senior with a green thumb.
Why, then, the notion of placing so many plaques on the wall?
“All the family’s in one place for a change,” Barbara Bennette said.
“It does make me feel proud of my family,” her husband admitted, noting the military introduced him to one of his greatest passions – his wife, whom he met in Okinawa.
Bennette hasn’t joined any military or veterans organizations and doesn’t correspond with many of his military buddies, except for at an occasional reunion or two.
“I got out of the service and never looked back,” he said. “I didn’t want to talk about World War II. I’m through with it. I like to think of the future, not the past.”
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