Howard Benson and Glendale Police Sgt. Jeff Turney

Howard Benson and Glendale Police Sgt. Jeff Turney, at the end of their road trip to Florida.

He made two big milestones: His 94th birthday and one last Veterans Day.

Then on Nov. 12, World War II veteran Howard Benson died in Florida. He was with his family, which is how Glendale Police Sgt. Jeff Turney wanted him to go.

In September, Glendale Police received a call from a frantic family member: Benson was planning to move to Florida, which was fine, as he was in ailing health.

But he was planning to drive himself from Glendale.

Turney responded to the call. After his attempts to talk Benson out of the plan failed, Turney offered to use his off days to drive the fellow veteran to Florida.

The “buddy-veteran road trip” made national news, though Turney shrugged it off as “just what we do.”

On the long drive, Benson was an enthusiastic conversationalist, sharing stories of flying for the Navy as a radar operator during World War II. Near the end of the three-day drive, Turney gave Benson a tour of the Keesler Air Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, where Turney was stationed during part of his 21 years in the Air Force.

“I tell you, I wish that I was able to walk again and do things with him,” Benson told the Glendale Star, from Florida after the trip. 

“I think he and I would be great friends, forever.”

Less than two months after taking him home, Turney received the news of Howard’s passing by phone.

“I was surprised when his son called me,” Turney said.

“It confirms my decision to take him home was the right decision.  He was able to see and be with his family for his 94th birthday and saw one last Veterans Day celebration.”

Howard Benson’s death inspired Turney to write the following poem, titled “The Veteran”:

When countries invade, they’re on the front line; 

they stand tall and defend, pushing death from their mind

They may be afraid, but the enemy won’t know; 

they’ve answered the call, defending liberty as they go

Our way of life is so precious, they will fight to the end; 

standing beside each other, they will not bend

Protecting our freedom, can take a tremendous toll, 

but liberty requires them to perform their role

They signed on a line, turning over their life; 

they stand in the way of injustice and strife

Wars will be fought, by land, air and sea; 

by those with a cause - by those who believe

They protect those standing, to their left and their right; 

ready to sacrifice themselves, with all their might. 

When thanked for their service, some veterans will shudder; 

they didn’t do it for glory, they hoped to make the world better…