Staff Sergeant James
1948 - 2014
James 'Jim' Lee VanBendegom, 18, died July of 1967, while a POW during the Vietnam War.
A resident of Kenosha, he was born Nov. 28, 1948, the second of four sons of the late Robert Paul and Virginia VanBendegom. His father, a World War II veteran was a machinist and member of Local machinist Union 34; while his mother was a full-time home maker and exceptionally active in various functions at their family church.
As a member of Trinity Lutheran Church he attended Sunday school, sang in the youth choir, and participated in numerous youth events, such as Luther League. Upon completing required classes he was confirmed as an adult member.
He enjoyed hunting and fishing with his father, brothers and friends alike. Jim delivered newspapers for the Kenosha news, and as a high school student worked at Sunnyside Grocery store. He was known for his quite, charismatic and free-spirited demeanor especially with the numerous young ladies whom he dated.
Jim attended Kenosha Public schools, including Tremper High School until the fall of 1966. In January 1967 after volunteering for induction into the Army he received basic and advance training at Fort Jackson, S.C. as an infantryman and recoilless rifle specialist. Following a 30-day leave, he departed his Kenosha home on Father's day for Vietnam where he was assigned to 3rd platoon of B Company, 1st Battalion, 12th Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division. On July 12, 1967, during his unit's most costly combat engagement in Central Highlands near the Cambodian border, Jim was severely wounded and captured by enemy forces. With unverifiable information as to his fate, Jim was classified as Missing-In-Action for several years that followed. Based on circumstantial evidence in 1969, his family was informed Jim maybe alive and a Prisoner of War. In 1973, returning Prisoners of War reported Jim had died of his battle wounds in July 1967 shortly after capture while a prisoner. His remains could not be recovered at the time.
On Oct. 17, 2014, Jim's family were informed a portion of his remains had been recovered and positively identified through DNA testing. After 47 years he will be returned to Kenosha and laid to final rest with full military honors.
For his actions and personal sacrifice, he was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, Prisoner of War Medal, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation, and the Republic of Vietnam Civil Actions Honor Medal Unit Citation, first Class. He was also awarded the Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Combat Infantry Badge with Recoilless Rifle Bar, and Sharpshooter Badge. While classified MIA and a POW, he was promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant.
Jim's legacy of living life to the fullest and forsaking his life in defense of his nation's values will be remembered by those whom were blessed to have known him.
Continuing to morn his loss, he is survived today by his mother Virginia; brothers, Michael (Darlene) of Madison, Wis.; Bob (Sue) and Gary of Kenosha; nieces – Kelly, Melinda, Jodi; and nephews, Jeff, Ken, David and Jim.
A graveside side service with full military honors will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 11, (Veterans Day) at 11 a.m. at Sunset Ridge Memorial Park.
Proko Funeral Home & Crematory
5111-60th Street Phone: (262) 654-3533
Visit James Online Memorial Book at: www.prokofuneralhome.com
Published by Kenosha News from Nov. 2 to Nov. 9, 2014.