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Lt. Gen. Richard Mills, deputy commandant for combat development and integration, congratulates Gunnery Sgt. Verice Bennett after presenting him with a Silver Star at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in December.

Lt. Gen. Richard Mills, deputy commandant for combat development and integration, congratulates Gunnery Sgt. Verice Bennett after presenting him with a Silver Star at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in December. (Emmanuel Ramos/USMC)

Lt. Gen. Richard Mills, deputy commandant for combat development and integration, congratulates Gunnery Sgt. Verice Bennett after presenting him with a Silver Star at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in December.

Lt. Gen. Richard Mills, deputy commandant for combat development and integration, congratulates Gunnery Sgt. Verice Bennett after presenting him with a Silver Star at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in December. (Emmanuel Ramos/USMC)

Ashton Eaton, left, won a gold medal Thursday in the decathlon. Back in the States, his brother, Gunnery Sgt. Verice Bennett, a Silver Star recipient, was cheering him on.

Ashton Eaton, left, won a gold medal Thursday in the decathlon. Back in the States, his brother, Gunnery Sgt. Verice Bennett, a Silver Star recipient, was cheering him on. (Courtesy of Verice Bennett)

WASHINGTON — Before decathlete Ashton Eaton left for London, Gunnery Sgt. Verice Bennett told him that if he ever got tired, he should picture Bennett running just ahead of him.

“Because you know if I beat you, I’m talking trash ... for the rest of your life,” Bennett said he told his half brother.

Apparently the motivation worked. Eaton earned Olympic gold — and the title of world’s greatest athlete — scoring almost 200 points more than the silver medalist, American teammate Trey Hardee.

Back in Virginia, Bennett was cheering. Loudly.

“I can’t say anything more than proud,” Bennett said Friday in a phone interview from Marine Corps Base Quantico. “I was yelling when he started. I was at the staff club when he ran the 400, the single lap … yelling, ‘Let’s go! Run faster!’ when he was in [second place].”

Then Eaton picked up the pace significantly, Bennett said.

“He made them all look like they were running backwards,” he said.

Bennett, 34, is 10 years older than Eaton, and the two — who have the same father — didn’t know each other well when they were young, but they’re “definitely tight now,” Bennett said.

Bennett ran the 4x400 and the 800 in junior high school, then left track and played just about every other sport, participating in a sport every season throughout high school, he said. Eaton also got involved in sports early, though he didn’t start training or competing in decathlon until college at the University of Oregon.

Bennett says he sees a lot of himself in his younger brother — his passion and intensity, he said.

The two bear a strong family resemblance, making things a bit awkward for Bennett and his wife when neighbors comment on Eaton’s nude photo shoot for ESPN’s recent body issue and mention how much the two look alike.

Though Eaton beat Bennett in a foot race recently, grappling was a different story.

“I put him in multiple choke holds” during an impromptu grappling match at their aunt’s house in Oregon, Bennett said. “He’s scrappy, but he can’t beat me in strength yet.”

The decathlon consists of 10 events over the course of two days, and Bennett said he’s tried to record and watch everything he could. He regrets not flying out to Oregon to watch Eaton compete in the Olympic trials, where he set a world record.

“I’ve seen him run, but not do a whole decathlon competition,” Bennett said. “It would have been great to watch him compete.”

Eaton did get to fly out for Bennett’s award ceremony last year — when the older brother was awarded the Silver Star for his actions in Afghanistan.

Eaton wrote on his blog that he was blown away by the story and the ceremony.

“Until now, I didn’t know what gravity it held to hold the American flag at something like the World Championships or the Olympics,” he wrote. “What an honor.”

Ashton Eaton's blog

hladj@stripes.osd.milTwitter: @jhlad


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