My father, Sydney Worthington Bennett, was funny. He made you laugh when he walked into the room. He would say dumb things like, "Gee, it would be cold if it wasn't so darn hot!" For some reason it made us laugh. Especially in Bakersfield, California, where it was 120 degrees in the shade!

I loved my father. He was sunshine, and I always waited for him to come home.

We lived with my father's mother in an old house on the East side of Bakersfield. His father was killed by a horse in a lightning storm in New Mexico when my dad was just thirteen. My grandmother, who was a dentist, worked to support them. When he could, he dropped out of high school to go to work and help her out.

Then he married my mom and they had my brother Sydney and me. The war loomed in the background of our lives from the beginning of my earliest memories. We feared the draft. At first, my dad was exempt because he had a dependent widowed mother, a wife and two children. But the awful day came when they reclassified him from 3A to 1A, and within days he had to report for a physical. My grandmother wrote a letter to the draft board pleading that he not be taken -- but to no avail.

He went. Was he a hero? I don't know. He didn't want to go, mainly because he had a strong feeling that he would be killed. He told everyone he wasn't coming back. He came home once on leave, and my mother got pregnant with my brother Tom. He stopped on the way East and asked an uncle in Indiana to watch out for us kids. He had spent hours saying goodbye to his mother, and he prayed with her on his knees, agreeing, finally, to be saved. He asked my brother to watch out for me and my mom, he told me to be good, and then he left in the dark of early morning.

He never came back, and I will always wish he had. It took me a lifetime to learn that when people die they are truly gone forever. I always thought that they were just across the sea, or over the mountain, just out of sight.

Sydney Bennett spent the winter of '44 in a replacement depot in Italy. Spring of '45 came, and they began an offensive, driving the Germans out of the mountains north of Florence. He was brought up to the front by night as a replacement for the 10th Mountain Division, 87th Mountain Infantry.

He was a machine gunner, probably because he was such a good shot. In fact, he used to sit on the back porch and shoot rabbits with a single shot .22 Winchester. He was with the 87th for just three days when they entered the small village of Mongiorgio. He was the first one across a clearing and was shot by a sniper in the neck, dying instantly. The men who were with him never had a chance to know him, but one of them found his pipe on the ground near where he fell, and stuck it in his pocket. I have that pipe, thanks to the soldier. I also have the Winchester he used to shoot off the back porch, his razor, and a cheap ring that says "Firenze" on it, that he bought in Florence.

I am one of the lucky ones who have a few memories of their Dad. He is buried in Florence American Cemetery, Florence, Italy.

– Ann Bennett Mix –

To see Florence Amwerican Cemetery on the ABMC Website, Click Here.

2019 by Ann Bennett Mix and the sons and daughters of AWON All rights reserved.