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Minnesota National Guard
Students repair injured soldier's SUV, faith (video)

11:31 PM, Feb 16, 2012 
Jacob Benson's road to recovery now includes support from St Cloud Technical & Community College students who have helped him get behind the wheel again

Benson was the only one of four Minnesota Army National Guardsmen to survive a rocket attack in Basra, Iraq, in 2009

In August, he totaled his SUV in a five-car pileup after he had returned to the United States

"Jake and his wife couldn't afford to repair the vehicle because Jake can't work, so I pitched the idea to fix the car as our community service project," Nicholas Buskey said

Buskey was a sergeant in Benson's platoon and part of the same 34th Military Police Company out of Stillwater Buskey will graduate in May from the local college's auto body collision technology program

"My dearest and closest friends are military members as well," Buskey said before Thursday's ceremony at the college, where the keys of the repaired vehicle were handed to Benson, a member of the Red Bulls

The program's students sought donations of parts, panels, finishing products and cash from local businesses

The SUV would have cost more than $10,000 to repair without them, Benson said

PAM's Auto, Granite City Paint and Body Supply, Firestone Tire and Service Center, Keystone Automotive Industries, and Miller Auto Body and Plaza were among the donors

"The project couldn't have been about a better idea," said Derek Meehl, an SCTCC student and president of the local chapter of SkillsUSA, a partnership of students, teachers and industry

"The members of the club didn't have to do that, but it was just their way of giving back to someone that has already given so much, so they can have the kind of life they value," Buskey said

Benson still has more than a dozen pieces of shrapnel in his body and takes his recovery from the physical and emotional wounds on "a day-to-day basis," he said

"Even though I lost my brothers-in-arms over there, you stay motivated that you keep on pushing through and that something better will come," Benson said before the start of Thursday's ceremony

SCTCC President Joyce Helens welcomed about 50 people to the ceremony, which was interrupted by Benson's 2-year-old daughter gleefully honking on the horn


Benson said he was starting his own furniture-making company - a dream of his and one of the soldiers who was killed in the Basra attack

"The evening that we had in Iraq hit everyone really hard," Buskey said "It most certainly drew us closer together as a family because it made us realize that you cannot take things for granted"

Carlos Wilcox, 27, of Cottage Grove; Dan Drevnick, 22, of Woodbury; and James Wertish, 20, of Olivia were killed in the 2009 attack Benson was burned

"This means more to me than just a car," said Benson, noting the detailing of the names of his fallen comrades on his vehicle "It's undescribable the love that we had for each other"

Buskey, a 26-year-old husband from Maple Lake, and his classmates have been working since October to restore the 1993 Chevrolet TrailBlazer under SCTCC automotive instructor Dale DeRung's direction

"With no money and my insurance not wanting to help us, I was left with heartbreak that I had let my whole family down again," said Benson, a 25-year-old husband and a father from Savage

The program's students - Tyler Bollin, Corey Brown, Stephen Golombecki, Luke Heerdt, Mike Hines, Shane Netter, Ryan Schonthaler and Meehl - not only helped rebuild Benson's SUV but his faith

"That's what it really comes down to: We're trying to say, "˜Thank you,'" Buskey told the crowd and Benson on Thursday

Written by
Frank Lee
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