Benson family receives second flag

Wednesday, January 17, 2007
The late Carol Benson has been remembered with two special American flags for the years she dedicated to her students. Pictured with the flags is her husband, Nelson. (Town Crier photo/Revis Blaylock)

Town Crier News Staff

The family of Carol Benson, longtime social studies teacher at Manila elementary school, has received many heartfelt messages from friends, family and former students since her death on Oct. 17, 2006. A special day was held at the elementary school in her honor and memory. Following the ceremony, the flag from her classroom was presented to her husband, Nelson Benson, children and grandchildren.

Mr. Benson said the flag had flown over the Capitol and was presented to the school for Mrs. Benson's room.

The Bensons recently received a second flag in memory and honor of Mrs. Benson. This flag was presented by a former student and friend Capt. Clint Armani, United States Air Force.

This flag flew in an F-16 over the skies of Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., in honor of Mrs. Benson on Oct. 31, 2006. The flight was a 1.7 hour test mission. The pilot was Lt. Col Robert Malacrida and the flight test engineer was Captain Armani.

In addition to the flag, the personal letter and message he sent to the Benson family and Mrs. Benson's grandchildren were a tribute to a teacher who made a difference in the lives of her students.

An excerpt from the letter is a memory from Captain Armani's elementary days spent in Mrs. Benson's classroom:

Like many students of Manila, Mrs. Benson was my fourth grade teacher. I distinctly remember the agony I felt when she gave us the assignment to memorize and recite the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America. I thought to myself, "There is no way I can memorize this, not to mention stand in front of my entire class and recite it."

As I have done in many other cases, I procrastinated thinking maybe this assignment would just go way. However, as the time approached, I grew increasingly nervous. I practiced with much agony and tears the night before my turn. I doubted I could remember this perfectly, plus speaking in front of my class created loads of fear. The next day, I stood up in Mrs. Benson's class, recited it with confidence, and did not miss a single word. This accomplishment launched me into developing discipline for studying and memorizing. In a small but tangible way, Mrs. Benson's assignment was essential in laying a solid foundation for much of my education.

I never would have guessed that approximately 14 years later at the University of Arkansas I would take an oath of an officer in the United States Air Force to defend the Constitution. I have taken this oath twice and will likely take it a couple more times. Every time I think of the Constitution, I think of Mrs. Benson. This is why I decided to fly a flag in memory and honor of her.

Mrs. Benson taught school for 26 years, all except one in the Manila elementary school. For most of those years she taught fourth grade social studies.

She was devoted to her family, friends, and students.

Her children are Ray Benson and wife, Jennifer; Rachel Gifford and husband, Scott; and grandchildren are Jenna and Neal Benson and Miles and Meg Gifford.

"She always took pride in the accomplishments of her students and former students," Mr. Benson said. "It was no secret, she was a Razorback fan. She never lost her love of teaching or for the students she taught."

She was diagnosed with a most aggressive cancer in February and lost her courageous battle in October leaving behind a legacy that will last forever in the lives of her family, friends and former students.

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