A hero’s story – Veterans saluted

November 8, 2012

When World War II veteran Chinis Bennett was 17 years old , he wanted to enlist in the United States Navy , but his parents wouldn’t sign the permission papers that allowed a minor to enlist. A long and dedicated military career was only delayed by one year. When he turned 18 , Chinis was drafted by the United States Army and was sent to Germany to fight in World War II. During his four years serving abroad in the Army , Chinis received two bronze stars , a good conduct medal and a Purple Heart. He completed his assignment and returned to the United States , then , Chinis enlisted in the Navy.

After serving four years in the Navy , Chinis enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard , retiring after 20 years of service. Chinis then joined the United States Merchant Marines , retiring for good in 1983.

When asked why he chose to serve his country in so many ways , Chinis’ response was matter-of-fact , “Well , it needed to be done , and I wanted to do the best I could for my country , ”he said.

A man who has seen the world , Chinis , now 86 years old , enjoys a quiet and serene life in Midland , sharing his beautiful home in the woods with Linda , his wife of 19 years. Linda shares Chinis’ stories , letters of commendation and service awards with great excitement , hoping that his stories will be remembered by others , because Chinis is slowly losing his ability to recall them. Now receiving hospice care through MidMichigan Home Care , Chinis has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Chinis’ home boasts a wall of honor , that holds just a fraction of the photos and awards he has kept from his days in the service. Looking at his medals , he proudly and sadly recalls a day in Germany when his platoon came under fire. Only he and two others survived the battle. Chinis was shot during the battle , and received a Purple Heart. This medal is proudly displayed beside his World War II Victory medal , which reminds visitors to his home that they are in the presence of a real-life hero.

Chinis , a kind and humorous man , speaks with pride regarding his country. He adores his wife , who helps him remember the details of his war stories. She maintains boxes of well-organized papers and photos , keeping his memories alive , as Chinis fights to hold on to them.

As a member of the ever-declining population of World War II veterans , this hero takes life one day at a time , savoring each quiet moment in his country home , often sitting outside , simply enjoying the outdoors. The complexity of this quiet and gentle man , who is also a decorated fighter , is hard to describe or understand , but it is clearly witnessed when visiting this living icon of United States history.

Although this brave soldier now only vaguely resembles the fresh-faced man in the photos displayed on the wall of honor , he is still a hero. Despite being an older , quiet man , Chinis continues to fight. Days of fighting enemies on foreign soil may be long behind him , but Chinis now fights the symptoms of age and the formidable foe , Alzheimer’s disease.

It is uncertain how long this new battle will rage , but it is certain that Chinis Bennett will neither retreat nor surrender. He faces this battle head on , comforted by the love of Linda. He fights his final battle , continuing to make an indisputable statement of honor through a life well-lived and the unstoppable spirit of a genuine American hero.

CAPTION: Throughout MidMichigan Health , volunteer veterans will be honoring other veterans during the week of Veterans Day. Here , MidMichigan Home Care volunteer , retired Air Force Master Sergeant Anthony Kirgis honors Chinis Bennett of Midland with a certificate of appreciation and an American flag lapel pin from MidMichigan Home Care. MidMichigan Home Care will be honoring veterans who are receiving home health , hospice and private duty services in the same manner on November 9 , 2012. MidMichigan Home Care is also teaming up with local veterans and MidMichigan Gladwin Pines and MidMichigan Stratford Village to honor veterans who reside at both of the long term care facilities with a special ceremony , certificates of appreciation and lapel pins.

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