Medal of Honor recipient Thomas W. Bennett (April 7, 1947- February 11, 1969) was a conscientious objector who received America’s highest honor for his heroism as an army medic in Vietnam. Born in Morgantown, Bennett was active in high school clubs, ecumenical church work, and the Boy Scouts. He was a vocal opponent of the Vietnam War while a student at West Virginia University. Believing it was wrong to evade the draft while others had to serve, he volunteered as a noncombatant medic with the 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry. He was killed by gunfire in a battle at Chu Pa, Vietnam, while trying to drag a wounded soldier to safety. He was nominated by his commanding officer and soldiers for the Medal of Honor.
Named for Bennett are the WVU residence hall Bennett Tower; the Bennett House campus ecumenical center; and the Bennett Youth Center at Schofield Barracks, U.S. Army 14th and 25th Infantry Division, Hawaii.
Below is an excerpt from Peaceful Patriot: The Story of Tom Bennett (1980)
I don’t think that what’s happening in ‘Nam will win any cause worth 150,000 human lives. That’s my opinion. I’ll express it here now, or later when I might be risking my neck in ‘Nam. It’s my obligation as part of a democracy to let my voice be heard.
It is also my obligation to give service to my country. That’s why I’m here – to help provide freedom for dissenting voices. That’s one of the things which makes a country great. Only when a system is considered hopeless should a person a leave it or work for its destruction.
I believe in America. I believe that our process of government can respond to the people’s needs – if we each will assume our responsibility. Too many of us jump to the last resort first-leaving or destroying the system.
This Article was written by Bonni V. McKeown
Last Revised on September 25, 2012
McKeown, Bonni V. Peaceful Patriot: The Story of Tom Bennett. Charleston: Mountain State Press, 1980.
Ryan, F. Evelyn. Memorial to Honor Local Vietnam War Casualty. Morgantown Dominion Post, July 31, 1988.
Vietnam Vet to be Honored. West Virginia University Alumni News, (Apr. 1990).
Cite This Article
McKeown, Bonni V. "Tom Bennett." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 25 September 2012. Web. 16 September 2014.