US Marine Sergeant Bryan Hoyt Benson, born November of 1980, of St Paul, Minnesota, beloved son, brother and husband.
After deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, Marine Sergeant Bryan Benson came home and enrolled in courses at the University of Minnesota. But on April 27, 2005, he shocked his family by driving far away from his St. Paul home and taking his own life.
“If Bryan can commit suicide, it’s really open season; it can happen to anybody,” says his mother, Denise Hinton. “He’s the last person anybody would have thought would die this way.”
Benson couldn’t wait to join the military; he signed his commitment papers even before his graduation from Como Senior High, where he was a member of the ROTC program.
Three years after Benson graduated, he found himself on a Marine ship patrolling the waters near Australia, the kind of comfortable military assignment that was to be expected in the pre-9/11 world. But when the Twin Towers came crashing down, Benson’s unit was immediately sent to the Arabian Sea. One month later, he was deployed to Afghanistan, where he served for four months. In March of 2003, Benson was sent to Iraq.
While in Fallujah searching for a missing Marine, the then-22-year-old was ambushed by Iraqi gunmen. He was shot in the abdomen, escaping death only because the bullet hit the magazine of his M-16 rifle. Later, he was shot in the leg. He told his parents nothing more about the incidents, other than that he and other Marines “dispatched” their assailants.
A natural-born leader, Benson returned from combat in 2004 with the ambition to move up the military ranks. He was admitted to the Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Education Program, which would allow him to transition from sergeant to officer. To gain entrance to the program, Benson had to pass several psychological tests and interviews with panels of high-ranking military officials.
“Nobody caught anything unusual,” his mother says.
Hinton noticed her son was different after the war, a little jaded, perhaps, but nothing unexpected for someone who’d experienced combat at such a young age. She wasn’t that surprised when her son told her he wanted to get a gun; he no longer felt safe in the middle-class St. Paul neighborhood where he grew up.
“When you experience war, nothing is ever going to be the same again,” says Matt Hinton, Benson’s stepfather. “For the rest of your life you are going to experience everything from a different perspective.”
This is especially true with the current wars. Because there are no front lines, soldiers have to always be on guard. Many of them, like Benson, bring that mentality home.
The Hintons thought Benson’s struggles would fade as he spent time at home. It wasn’t until after his death that they realized the full extent of his psychological pain.
“I just thought we’d have to love him up and get the sparkle back in his eyes,” says Denise Hinton. “But we were wrong, love wasn’t enough.”
Sgt Bryan Benson lost his battle with PTSD, April 27, 2005. He was 24 years old.