Northern Illinois University junior Communications major Richard Bennett–a former Army serviceman from Homer Glen who risked his life to save another’s during battle–represented the Chicago Cubs during the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in New York Tuesday as part of Major League Baseball and People Magazine’s “Tribute for Heroes”campaign.
The DeKalb resident served in the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, and during a deployment to Afghanistan, his unit came under fire on a daily basis. While on an air assault mission to the Korengal Valley, Bennett ran 35 meters through heavy enemy fire and threw himself on the platoon’s fallen medic to shield him from further wounds.
Heavy fire continued all around as he pulled his fellow soldier to cover. That soldier is now recovering.
For his actions, Bennett was awarded the Silver Star. He says he only did what any of his fellow infantrymen would have done but is thankful for the spotlight the program puts on the service of the nation’s military personnel.
“The program’s biggest plus in my eyes is that it brings to light the sacrifices that our country’s veterans have made and more importantly the sacrifices that they continue to make in order to support our veterans and our nation as a whole,” Bennett says.
In addition to pursuing his degree, Bennett is vice president of the NIU Veteran’s Club. Through his service in the club, he provides support to veteran students through educational and social opportunities. As part of its leadership team, he advises and advocates for veteran students.
He works with the local VFW and American Legion to support local veterans in addition to his work with military veteran students on campus, and he hopes to work with the Wounded Warriors Project following graduation.
“I always loved it here,” says Bennett of the school he attended before joining the Army and returned to after. “I think that NIU and more specifically the Military Student Services office does a great job in support veterans in any way they need it. I look forward to being an NIU graduate.”
NIU was ranked in the top 50 “Best for Vets” four-year colleges in the country by Military Times Magazine for 2013, and G.I. Jobs recognized NIU with Military Friendly School status for 2013 as one of the top 15 percent of schools nationwide that deliver the best experience for military students.
One winner representing each of the 30 MLB teams was recognized in pregame ceremonies for the 2013 All-Star Game at New York’s Citi Field, which aired July 16 on FOX. The “Tribute for Heroes” honorees were treated to a private tour of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, a VIP reception on the USS Intrepid, and took part in the All-Star Red Carpet Show Presented by Chevrolet and the Chevrolet Home Run Derby.
“I am very honored to be considered for the tribute to heroes initiative. I think it’s a great program that MLB and People have put together,” Bennett adds.
The Cubs honored Bennett in pregame ceremonies Friday, July 12, and he was able to stand with the players for the national anthem.
“I love the Cubs,” says Bennett, who has attended more than 300 games, mostly sitting in the left-field bleachers. “I try to come here as much as I can.”
Along with MLB and People Magazine, a panel that included General Peter W. Chiarelli (retired) and General John M. “Jack” Keane (retired) alongside MLB players Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers, Nick Swisher of the Cleveland Indians, Barry Zito of the San Francisco Giants, Jonny Gomes of the Boston Red Sox, Brad Ziegler of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Chase Headley of the San Diego Padres and Craig Stammen of the Washington Nationals assisted in the selection process.
The “Tribute for Heroes” campaign supports Welcome Back Veterans (welcomebackveterans.org), an initiative of Major League Baseball, and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, which addresses the needs of veterans after they return from service. Major League Baseball has committed more than $23 million for grants to hospitals and clinics that provide post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) treatment to veterans and their families in a public/private partnership with “Centers of Excellence” at university hospitals throughout the country.
RELATED VIDEO: Heroes honored at 2013 Major League Baseball All-Star Game
(Courtesy MLB/Fox Sports)