The mortal remains of the most Honorable Charles E. Bennett, M.C. were interred in Arlington National Cemetery following his death in 2003. This resting place of honor for him among our nation’s heroes is especially appropriate. Not only did he earn that privilege through physical courage under fire in combat, but he earned all the honor and respect we can give him by his decades of arduous, stressful and demanding national service, all the more so because he performed that service despite daunting physical disability.
Throughout his 44 years of service in the U.S. House of Representatives as the Member of Congress for Florida’s northeast and as Dean and Chairman of Florida’s Congressional Delegation, Charlie Bennett never gave less than his best. He fulfilled his duties with dignity, honor and the strongest sense of personal integrity I have ever seen. His spirit was indomitable; his commitment to his country and his constituents, total.
Charlie Bennett earned the Silver Star, the nation’s third highest combat decoration for bravery, during WW II, where he led guerrilla operations against the Empire of Japan forces until the return of General Douglas MacArthur to the Philippines. But his relentless courage in confronting every day the ravages of the poliomyelitis he contracted in the Philippine jungles was even more inspiring and humbling to all those around him.
Over the years he was able to progress from a wheel chair to crutches to two canes and then, finally, one cane. He considered that great progress—and it was. It also came after great efforts on his part to strengthen his wasted legs and to learn to use his cumbersome, painful braces to support his body. Several times a day when Congress was in session, he had to make the long trip from his Rayburn HOB office over to “The Floor” of the House of Representatives in the Capitol Building itself. It was slow and painful, but he did it thousands of times during his 44 years in office.
Since he had been a Member of Congress since 1949, Charles E. Bennett was all I had ever known as the Congressman from the Third District of Florida.
My first personal association with him began in 1955.
© Copyright 2015 Tracy D. Connors