Someone who is brave and strong, selfless and noble? What about charitable, benevolent, and full of brotherly love? Andrew Elmer Benjock is all of the above. After more than 31 years of military service in the US Marines, 54 years of marriage, and 9 years as a Lodge Member, Andy has proven he is faithful, dedicated, hardworking, honest, and above all, inspirational. Andy was born in McKeesport, PA on Christmas Eve in 1921 . He is 95 years old (looks about 70), and still goes to the gym 3 times a week! He claims “If you don’t use it, you lose it!”, a phrase we should all live by!
He enlisted the US Marine Corps in 1941, with the help of his brother (he was technically too young to enlist). He became a Radio Operator Tail Runner with no knowledge of planes. In fact, he had never been near a plane in his life! He quickly learned how to fly. He was later sent in the 1st Squadron to fire rockets off of torpedo bombers on the Tokyo Rose with “Robbie’s Red Ass Rocketeers”. His plane was shot down by the Japanese in the South Pacific near Green Island, where he floated with 4 men on a 3 man life raft for 16 hours in 10-foot seas, surrounded by sharks, in 115-degree weather, before being rescued by a New Zealand Black Cat called “Dumbo”. Sunburned, dehydrated, and exhausted, he was allowed a whopping 7 days off of service to recover! He went right back to work, defending our country.
After World War II, he fought in Korea. Right after, he was married to his lovely wife, Rachel. Once, he nearly froze to death in temperatures of 50 below (his nose is still numb!). He was one of the few chosen to pull the wounded from The Chosen Reservoir. He helped saved over 4,800 soldiers. He later did 3 tours to Vietnam, where he flew for the CIA as a Marine Advisor. In 1968, he had a near-death experience when his lungs collapsed from an injury. A nurse put a pen in his trachea to inflate his lungs. His right lung has never recovered. But, before they were able to resuscitate him, he saw a big, white light, and felt at total peace. After countless battles fought, deployments, unfathomable situations and unforgettable sights, he retired as a Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant on December 1, 1973, where he was awarded a Navy Commendation Medal.
He and his wife Rachel (“Bert”) moved back to North Carolina for 20 years, before coming back to settle in Tustin. He has 4 children, Michele, Danny, Bobbie, and Barbara, 7 grandchildren, and 16 great grandchildren (and counting!). He and his family celebrated his 90th birthday at the Lodge, with a live country band strumming as they enjoyed his favorite meal being served, Pedro’s Tips & Noodles…..”
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