A Girl and Her Dad

October 8th, 2009

Families 39It’s often said that military personnel don’t serve alone; their families serve with them. Family members may not be under fire, but they suffer many of the same hardships — separation, sometimes for long periods, from their loved ones; the constant, underlying fear that when a soldier deploys, he or she may never return or may come back badly wounded; constant disruptions as military families move from one place to another, leaving friends and familiar surroundings behind; and seldom seeing their loved ones even when they live together because of long working hours and the demands of constant training.

Sometimes we see things that bring all that into the clearest possible light. This photograph of four-year-old Paige Benethum clinging to her father’s hand even as he stands in formation preparing to deploy to Iraq is touching beyond description. Despite her mother calling her, she wouldn’t leave her father. She said, “I didn’t want to let go of him.”

Here’s the whole story:

Some things are just not allowed when soldiers are standing in formation. One of them is 4-year-old girls.

However, there was no soldier stern enough to pry Paige Bennethum of Laureldale, Pa. from her father as he prepared to leave last July for a year-long deployment in Iraq.

Abby Bennethum captured her daughter’s emotions in a photograph that she passed along to the Reading Eagle, the newspaper in Berks County, Pa. The image immediately captured many other people’s emotions.

Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Brett Bennethum was preparing to depart from Fort Dix, N.J., for Iraq, leaving behind his pregnant wife and two little girls. His family was there to see him off. His commanding officer didn’t have the heart to tell Paige she had to let go of her daddy.

“I didn’t want to let go of him,” she told NBC Philadelphia.

Sgt. Bennethum, 30, is scheduled to return home next July. Until then, he’s transporting supplies across the Iraqi border. He serves with the 733rd Transportation Company based in Reading, Pa.

Abby Bennethum said she got pregnant right before her husband left for Iraq. “I’ve heard of deployment babies, but I never thought I’d be having one,” she told the Reading Eagle. The couple’s other daughter, Lena, is just 10 months old.

Staff Sgt. Bennethum got a four-day pass so he could spend some quality time with his family and they could make the two-hour trip to Fort Dix to see him off. Almost immediately upon arrival, his commanding officer ordered the soldiers to fall in.

“Gotta go,” he told his family. But Paige walked up behind him in formation, grabbed his right hand and would not let go.

“I called her a couple of times, but she wouldn’t budge,” her mother said. She still wishes she was holding her father’s hand.

“I just miss my dad right now,” Paige told NBC.

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2 Responses to “A Girl and Her Dad”

  1. Brianna |

    In the name of all who value freedom, to Sgt. Bennethum, his wife and daughters, and all who must deal with what they do: Thank you.

  2. Tom |

    It’s understandable that most people don’t often understand the full extent of the sacrifices military families make. They obviously suffer when their loved ones are deployed and especially when they’re killed or wounded in action. But it doesn’t end there.

    I would encourage everyone to click the link (Support Military Families) at the upper right of this page to learn about some of the things average people can do to support these families.

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