North Branch marine dies months after being injured in Iraq
St. Paul, Minn. — (AP) A marine from eastern Minnesota who was hospitalized in Texas after being injured in June by a roadside bomb in Iraq has died, his family said Sunday. Cpl. Johnathan Benson, 21, of North Branch died Saturday at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, his mother, Marjorie, told the Star Tribune. The hospital is part of the Fort Sam Houston military base.
"His goal as a kid was to serve in the military," Benson said from the hospital. "Even lying in the bed the Marines here asked him, 'Are you a Marine?' He said, 'Yes sir, I'm still a Marine. I want to go back over."'
Benson, who served with Company K, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Division, was injured June 17 when a bomb exploded under his vehicle near Habbaniyah. He lost his left leg and part of his left arm and was paralyzed from the waist down, according to the CaringBridge Web site created for him.
He was awarded a Purple Heart, which was pinned on him by a Marine commandant.
"He gave his all," his mother said. "There's not anymore he could have given."
When Benson was injured, he was two months away from completing his second tour of duty in Iraq. He joined the Marines in 2003 after graduating from North Branch Area High School.
Brian Meskimen, a fellow 2003 North Branch graduate, said he remembered walking with Benson through fields at a friend's farm, laughing and looking at the northern lights.
"John was an all-around good guy," he told the paper. "He was very friendly with everyone around him. He never had a beef with anybody."
Family members were planning a funeral service for next weekend in North Branch, with burial in Fort Snelling National Cemetery. Johnathan Benson was the youngest of six children.
Benson was the second man from North Branch - located about 40 miles north of the Twin Cities - to die in the war in Iraq.
John Pinsonneault, 39, a former Marine who was working as a civilian security consultant, was killed Oct. 14, 2004, inside the Green Zone in Baghdad after suicide bombers set off explosives at a market and cafe.
Overall, Benson is the 44th person with close Minnesota ties to die in connection with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.