After 75 years, Iowa soldier finally returns home
By AMES TRIBUNE Published: August 2, 2019
AMES, Iowa (Tribune News Service) — After 75 years, Army Cpl. Ralph Bennett finally came home Thursday.
Bennett, an Ames native and World War II soldier killed in battle in North Burma in 1944, went unidentified for more than seven decades before his remains were identified in April. On Thursday afternoon, with an escort from the Patriotic Riders, Bennett returned to Ames.
The flight carrying his remains landed at Des Moines International Airport just before 2 p.m. By 3:30 p.m., a military honor guard carried the flag-draped casket into Grandon Funeral and Cremation Care where it will remain until graveside services on Saturday.
In a story that was published in the Ames Tribune on July 4, Bennett's niece Char Mullin, of Huxley, detailed the exhaustive and emotional journey to find, locate and identify the remains of her uncle, who was 22-years-old when he died. She stood by, wiping tears from her eyes while she and other family members watched as the casket containing Bennett's remains was returned to Ames on Thursday.
Bennett's remains are sealed in a box inside the casket, adorned on the inside with his medals and commendations.
Emergency responders from area communities lined bridges over Interstate 35 as the procession carrying Bennett's remains made its way to Ames from Des Moines.
Members of the Huxley and Slater EMS and fire departments stationed themselves on the Iowa Highway 210 bridge as the procession passed by. Afterward, several of them talked about the emotion of the moment.
"I had to wipe away lots of tears," said Betty Robb, a member of Slater EMS.
Members of Nevada Fire and EMS, the Gilbert Fire Department, the American Legion and Story County Emergency Management lined the 260th Street bridge over I-35, just south of Ames.
Both the city of Ames and Story County have declared Saturday, Aug. 3, as "National Ralph Bennett Coming Home Day" in Ames— in honor of the first homecoming of a deceased World War II veteran in state of Iowa.
A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday at the Ames Municipal Cemetery, 2019 E. Ninth St., in Ames, with full military honors provided by the Iowa National Guard. The public is welcome to attend.
Doug McCrea, commander of American Legion Post 37 in Ames, said residents are encouraged to line Ninth Street from Grand Avenue to the cemetery to pay honor to Bennett as the funeral procession makes its way to the cemetery Saturday. He also encouraged any surviving World War II veterans in the area to attend the services on Saturday.
Char Mullin places her hand on the flag-draped casket containing the remains of her uncle, Ralph Bennett, who died in 1944 during World War II in Burma. He remained unidentified until April, and on Thursday he was brought home after a flight carrying his remains landed at the Des Moines International Airport.
JOE MURPHY, AMES TRIBUNE/TNS