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Charles Paige / Apr. 16, 2020

Profiles of Valor: Marine Raider Benjamin Carson

A much-needed story of how one man made a very positive difference in the world.

Another of the Greatest Generation, Marine Raider Benjamin Franklin Carson, passed away last month, having lived a long, full life that exemplified the Marine Corps’ motto of Semper Fidelis (Always Faithful). Although he doesn’t fit the description that usually comes to mind when we talk about the military and heroes — he didn’t lead a battle-determining charge or receive a major award for valor in combat — he fits our definition: someone who consistently put others’ interests ahead of his own and did his part to make the world a better place.

Eighteen-year-old Ben Carson enlisted in the Marine Corps shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was selected to join 2nd Marine Raider Battalion (a.k.a., Carlson’s Raiders) and fought in several of the Marine Corps’ and Raiders’ signature battles in WWII, including Midway, the Makin Island raid, Guadalcanal, and Iwo Jima. After being overseas for 39 months, he returned home to Minnesota and wed his high-school sweetheart, Helen, to whom he would remain married for 75 years. Read that last part again — 75 years!

After graduating from Iowa State University, Carson worked for the Forest Service with assignments throughout the United States. When he retired from the Forest Service, he started a family farm/ranch and continued sharing his love of agriculture in settings ranging from agricultural education programs in local high schools to development work for the State Department in Central Asia. His lifetime of service following “retirement” included mediation work with the court system, teaching English as a second language, and participating in a local veterans historical program.

One of his final acts of service was to spearhead (along with Louis Zamperini of “Unbroken” fame) efforts to repatriate the remains of nine fellow Raiders who had been missing in action since the Makin raid early in WWII.

What a different — and better — world this would be if more of us emulated even one phase of this remarkable, faithful life. Rest in Peace, Raider Carson. Thank you for your lifetime of service. We have the watch.

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