DJIBOUTI – Question: What do you call someone who goes from being a medical officer to a Nuclear Chemical Biological officer to Armor officer to an Artillery officer? Easy, we call him Major Michael Benton.
Benton began his military career in July of 1983 at Fort Jackson, S.C. The fort was named for the former Army General and 7th President of the United States, Andrew Jackson.
A lot was happening in July of 1983 when Benton enlisted. Yankee pitcher Dave Righetti threw a no-hitter against the Red Sox, the Supreme Court ruled that retirement plans can’t pay women less than men, and even terrorism showed its ugly face when 8 people were killed and more than 54 were wounded by an extremists bomb in Orly, France, and the number one song on Casey Kasem’s countdown was by the Police: Every Breath you Take.
Benton has done this ‘military thing’ for the better part of three decades now. In that time he’s seen a lot. From Desert Shield to Desert Storm. From Afghanistan to Iraq to Egypt and finally here to Djibouti. And now his newest mission, here, has taken him almost 8,000 miles away from his home. Being in the Horn of Africa isn’t easy by itself; the temperatures reach over 130 degrees in the summer with over 80% humidity daily. Plus to say it’s not your typical ‘military mission,’ is putting it lightly. The tasks here for his men, Taskforce Longrifles out of Kentucky’s 138th Fires Brigade, stretch from Entry Control Points on base, to Force Protection, to teaching English to those wanting to learn, and there are many who do.
While the full extent of his job duties deals with Soldiers on a day-to-day basis he uses his free time to volunteer.
One such occasion was Thursday Nov. 2 2012, when Benton volunteered to go on yet another volunteer mission. This time to a place called the ‘Wound Clinic.’ It was literally 30 seconds from shutting the van door that he was bombarded by local people seeking medical attention. The first in line was a man who had open sores and lesions all up and down his legs. With a Navy surgery team from the USS New York by his side, Benton found himself wearing scrubs and latex gloves, and cleaning the Djiboutian stranger’s wounds and applying clean dressings. Not a typical day for a ‘former National guard medic’ who day-to-day as a civilian works at the Smuckers-Jif plant in Lexington.
However that is exactly why the members of the Kentucky National Guard are so unique. They are among you every day. Talented, willing to help, relevant and ready for anything.
Everyday citizens who write blank checks to the people of this country regardless of race, religion and everything else, payable up to and including time with their own family and in some cases even their lives.
When asked who he wanted to say a special hello and thank you to at his job back in Lexington his response was; ‘I don’t have time to thank them all, too many people have been there for me. It’s my turn.’
As wholesome and as American as, well, peanut butter and Jelly.
Michael Benton will retire from the military after 30 years of service when he returns to Lexington next year at the completion of his deployment here in Africa.
Hey Michael, thanks for your service.