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Thomas Anthony Benes


1951 - 2014 Notice Condolences
Benes, Thomas Anthony, Major General U.S. Marine Corps (retired) of Spotsylvania, VA and Prather's Creek, NC, was called home to the Lord on Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014, at age 63, while at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, MD, following a courageous battle with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). Tom was born on June 8, 1951, in Milwaukee, WI, son of Alois and Pauline Benes. Predeceased by his beloved wife of 30 years, Betty (nee Bishop) Benes. Survived by his mother, Pauline Benes of Milwaukee, WI; daughters, Donna (Frank) Mayes, Kimberly (Terry) Smith; grandchildren, U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Justin (Deserae) Johnson, Joshua (Shayna) Johnson, Nikole Smith; Emily Mayes; sisters, Lois (Joel) Voelz, Debra (Robert) Plastine, Peggy (Walter Chmiel) Schmidt, Paula Benes, Pamela (Deron) Butler; sister-in-law, Nell (Otis) Smith; nephews and nieces, Scott and Sean Plastine, Andy Schmidt, Becca (Jon) Tetzlaff, Joule Voelz, Amy, Michelle and Paul Butler, Alina and Ksenia Benes, Jeff (Liz) Bell, Roxanne (Chuck) Wimberly, Paul (Jane) Bell; great-grandchildren, Hunter, Shilah, Kascen and Avery Johnson, Sean Smith; other relatives and friends. Tom will be dearly missed by his fiancée, Rosina (nee Grether) Paone. Tom's 35-year military career as a U.S. Marine fighter pilot took him on the adventure of a lifetime, serving at military bases worldwide. After graduating from University of Wisconsin-Madison in May 1974, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering, he received his commission in the U.S. Marine Corps. Graduate of TOPGUN Fighter Weapons School, Tom flew the F-4 Phantom II jet fighter and the F/A-18 Hornet Strike Fighter, and taught both weapons and tactics. Among his many exciting assignments, he conducted Combat Air Patrols while based in Iwakuni, Japan, deployed at Iceland and Norway, and served aboard the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal (CV-59). He commanded the VMFA-333 Trip-Trey Fighting Shamrocks, one of the first squadrons to participate in Operation Desert Storm. During the war, Tom flew 46 combat missions over Iraq and provided air defense over the Persian Gulf. In 1993, he attended the Industrial College of the Armed Forces and earned his master's degree from George Washington University. In 1999, while based at Tazar, Hungary, Tom supported the air campaign over Serbia, flying the F/A-18 Hornet Strike Fighter. As flag officer, he served in many high-level command staff positions for our U.S. Operating Forces. In 2000, while based at Naples, Italy, Tom held the dual position of the Chief of Staff of the Naval Strike and Support Forces Southern Europe and the Deputy Commanding General, Fleet Marine Forces Europe. He went on to serve as the President of the Marine Corps University and the Commanding General of the Marine Corps Education Command. After his final tour as the Director of the Expeditionary Warfare Division, OPNAV N85, at the Pentagon, Tom retired from active duty in 2009. Not content to sit idle after military retirement, Tom then took on the job as a civilian contractor for Alion Science and Technology Corporation of Washington, D.C., where he provided strategic support to the company's maritime-focused business sector as the Vice President of Integrated Strategic Solutions Operations. Tom also organized and led the annual Expeditionary Warfare Conference in Washington, D.C. for the National Defense Industry Association where he served as Chair of the Expeditionary Warfare Division. Tom's highly developed expertise and many insights into the planning of expeditionary warfare strategy and direction of future of U.S. military operations were published in U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings magazine. Tom also continued to give back to his alma mater in his home state of Wisconsin, while serving on the Department of Mechanical Engineering Industrial Advisory Board at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 2012, he received the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award from the university's College of Engineering. As a Milwaukee native, Tom's extensive military career will be honored in a display at the Mitchell Gallery of Flight Museum of General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee. The exhibit will be completed by sometime in November. Tom was an active member of St. Jude Catholic Church in Spotsylvania, VA and was blessed with a very strong faith in God. He maintained a cabin home in the mountains of North Carolina at Prather's Creek, near Sparta, where he was a member of the Marine Corps League and active in the local community. He enjoyed many hobbies, which included fishing, hunting, traveling and woodworking, as well as playing the concertina, dulcimer, mandolin and harmonica. In his spare time, Tom made beautiful furniture as well as handcrafted musical instruments-one of his handmade dulcimers is on display now in the Alleghany Historical Museum in Sparta, NC. Tom was a loving and gentle man who cared deeply for his family and friends. He had a heart of gold along with a storage house of inner strength and raw courage. Whether he was meeting friends or family on road trips, tinkering with hobbies, or conducting conference calls from hospital beds, Tom continued to live his life with passion, trying to squeeze as much living out of each day as he possibly could. He always maintained a positive attitude and shared his talents and blessings as well as plenty of joy and laughter with all who were in contact with him. In spite of his serious medical issues, he never stopped planning his next exciting adventure. For this gift of sustained energy, we thank the talented doctors, nurses, medical staff, the kind-hearted Franciscans, Brother David Schlatter, O.F.M., and Father John Hefernan, O.F.M., and the many caring people who ministered to Tom with remarkable perseverance and devotion. We also thank Tom's neighbors, especially Virgil and Becky Gray, Lea Wiltenmuth and her family, Louis, Carolyn and Joseph Farrell, and Stephanie Pritchett, for their strong friendship and support. Memorial contributions may be made to: The Walter Frank Osborne, Jr. Detachment 1298 of the Marine Corps League, P.O. Box 1298, Sparta, NC 28675 (mclsparta.com/HQ/); and the SECU Family House at UNC Hospitals, 123 Old Mason Farm Road, Chapel Hill, NC 27517.
Published in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Oct. 12, 2014
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