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Beverly Hills, California
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December 14, 2000     Beverly Hills Weekly
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December 14, 2000
 

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Circumstances surrounding Sergeant lnsel's death are still confusing and, in a sense, unresolved. But no one can question Insel's resolution to join and fight, even if his deci- sion was unpopular with his fellow students; and no one may question his level of com- mitment, ultimately losing his life half a world away for his loved ones here. Bennett was the son of a military family. His father, Henry Bennett (also a Beverly graduate), was a decorated captain in the US Navy. His mother was a marine. His broth- ers, Patrick and Christopher, also served in the Navy. Bennett chose to join the naval reserve in 1964 where he was assigned to his father's unit. He was called up for over- seas duty, in January 1965; he arrived in Vietnam in April, 1965 trained as Hospital Corpsman, 3rd class. Only three months later he was struck down saving lives. While working a medical evacuation mission, Bennett darted from his helicopter under heavy enemy fire to assist wounded soldiers. Finally, he scampered back in himself, but before the ship could take off he was struck and fatally wounded. Bravery, compassion, excellence, resolve; Bennett was heavily decorated in the few months he participated in the conflict. His val- ues were shaped and strong--for that he was criticized at home by fellow students and protestors--their values, albeit very different, were strong, too. When Robinson remembered Dennie Peterson he asked, "Father or son?" And, indeed, in everyone's memories they are inseparable. Adrian Bal, a science teacher at Beverly High since 1953, knew them both. "They were just great," he said. "We had faculty lunches, which we don't do anymore; and we'd always talk. He {Dennie Peterson Sr.] was a very popular teacher." And Dennie Peterson Jr. was a very popular student, too - a vibrant athlete, topnotch scholar, a motivated young man. Peterson Jr. worked over the summers as a grounds-keeper at the high school. Robinson recalled taking time out to chat with Dennie, "He always struck me as a boy who knew what he wanted." Bal considered him duty-oriented. It came as no surprise, to learn that the older Peterson was a veteran of World War II. He commanded the base on Johnson Island, which later became a part of the atomic weapons program. Like Captain Henry Bennett, stories of honor, duty, and prestige were circulated by Captain Peterson, which encircled the young Peterson and imbued his actions. He made such an impact that Beverly Hills High School's baseball team named their Most Outstanding Player Award for him in 1985. Peterson Jr. was a great catcher for his Beverly teams. He also was an end in foot- ball and found time for basketball. Attorney Ron Rosen (BHHS '62) recalled him as "an all-around great guy." He made an impact wherever he went. After graduating in 1962, Peterson Jr. attended the University of Oregon. It seems that college was part of his plan to join the armed forces. The summer after his graduation he enrolled in the Officers Training at Marine Basic School in Quantico, Virginia. In con- trast to his times, Peterson Jr. knew the answers he was looking for---he knew where his path lay. He arrived in Vietnam as a 2rid Lieutenant of artillery in mid-1967. He had time to send two letters. On September 6, 1967, during operation Swift, 2nd Lt. Peterson, USMC dreams ended and, ironically, were realized. All day and into the night, Peterson exposed himself to enemy gunfire, first to gain better knowledge of where to direct his artillery and then to retrieve wounded. Three separate times, after having been wounded four times himself, he organized groups of marines to recover those Unable to make it back to friendly lines unaided. It is hard not to think that he was iiv- g up to the ideals spoken over dinner and homework exercises and when practice to go nowhere. He was fatally wounded while receiving treatment for his injuries sustained during the lay's combat. The citation on his award reads, "By his calm courage, intrepid fighting Spirit and dynamic leadership, 2nd Lieutenant Peterson inspired all who observed him " " n lj contributed materially to the accomplishment of his unit s mlsslo . For his valor he awarded the Navy Cross, only narrowly missing the highest military commendation: of Honor. Lt. Peterson's death weighed heavily on the elder Peterson. Many p.o. inted ut how the .ath ofDennie Peterson s son broke his heart. They existed together m imag nauon and life; they were to lie side-by-side in death. Less than two years later, Peterson Sr. passed a'ay. They now lie in Forest Lawn. Robinson remembers the ceremony 30 years ago. "I can't tell you what time of year it as," Robinson tried to explain. "It was sunny and little smoggy, like every other day in ..... Los Angeles. But it was a beautiful and touching ceremony." crack of 21 guns sealed the ceremony under the unchanging Californian sun, sealo o ag 2nd Lieutenant Peterson's answer to his own "whyT' "The gunfire start_led me," Robinson recalled, Compelling resolutions always do. [] THE T00VEL MP_E)ICINE CP_NTEK AND ONE STOP TKAVEL SHOP' Take care of all your travel supplies & health needs before, during & after travel! We carry travel supplies like books, language translators, bug protection, water purifiers, luggage gear, hats, security devices, first aid kits, medications and vaccines for travel. No more running around LA! all your travel needs in one convenient location-medical and retail. q' This is the only full-time travel clinic and travel store in one location in the whole USA! Located just 100 feet north of Wilshirc and with free parking 131 I't. Robertson Blvd. Beverly Hills, CA 90211 (00IO) 360-10031 December 14 - 20, 2000 11