Benson hails the United States as “the greatest country in the world.” She urges young Americans today to love their country and remember the sacrifices that military service members have made for the sake of American freedom.
“Remain true to your country,” she told the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). “We can pursue our dreams and hopes.”
After joining the Army Nurse Corps, Benson, along with her three fellow nursing school classmates, was deployed overseas to serve in the Second World War effort. Benson was assigned to stations in Japan, Hawaii, and Okinawa, serving a year and seven months before returning to the United States to marry her sweetheart.
“She was kind of fearless,” Benson’s daughter, Phyllis, told the DOD.
The fearlessness ran in her family; Benson’s four brothers served in the Armed Forces, too. The 2nd lieutenant’s husband was also a member of the military.
While stationed in Hawaii, Benson met Army 1st Lieutenant William Benson, a supply officer and company commander who later attained the rank of lieutenant colonel—and the pair fell in love. However, romance was a brief reprieve.
Talking to the DOD, Benson shared some of her most haunting war stories from overseas deployment. In one anecdote, Benson recalled a heavy storm hitting while she and her comrades were sailing across the Pacific.
“[T]he captain decided we would go down with the ship,” she said, “and of course, everybody got on their knees and prayed and promised God many things.
“Then all of a sudden, the ship calmed down,” Benson continued, “and we went through the eye of the storm and everybody went back to what they were doing.”
Benson worked the wards and operating rooms of Pacific Army hospitals, clocking in 12 hours at a time. Enduring harrowing sights and immeasurable losses, Benson said that her most important role was “to give comfort to those troops who were dying,” and be able to tell the mothers of young soldiers that their sons did not die alone.
The dedicated nurse served the front lines until the very end; the Japanese surrendered on Aug. 15, 1945.
“I was delighted, but the Japanese [troops] in the hills didn’t know that World War II was over,” she said, “and they came down [from the hills] shooting at us.”
However, after signing an official surrender agreement on Sept. 2, the Japanese extended their hospitality to the visiting Americans. The U.S. troops responded by sharing their rations.
“We ate dinner with them,” Benson said, “talked to them, and stayed in some of the Japanese homes.”
Returning home to the States in April 1946, Benson married William and settled into family life alongside a new role as a civilian surgical nurse.
On Aug. 31, 2020, U.S. Army officials honored the veteran Army nurse on Facebook on the occasion of her 100th birthday.
In one photo shared from her visit to The Pentagon, Army General Mark A. Milley presents Benson with the Joint Service Achievement Medal in recognition of her contribution to the war effort.
The social media tribute was acknowledged by thousands, with well-wishers leaving notes of thanks and congratulation.
“The Greatest Generation! Do what they had to do! No questions asked!” wrote one well-wisher. “God Bless her!”
“Thank you Ms. Regina Benson for your service and sacrifices,” another social media user wrote. “You and other nurses served in the country are all inspirations and great heroes of this nation. Congratulations to all veterans.”
We would love to hear your stories! You can share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org