DOD // 01.22.2021
HOMETOWN // Cedar, IA
DOB // 08.13.1965
DOD // 01.22.2021
HOMETOWN // Cedar, IA
DOB // 08.13.1965
PERSEVERENCE - JUDGMENT - BRAVERY
Bruce Eugene Bennett grew up in Iowa. From youth, study and sports were Bruce's escapes from poverty and abuse. He joined the Marines at 17. Bruce said if it hadn't been for the Marine Corps, he would have ended up dead or in prison. Bruce was the 1st Marine Division Scout Sniper Course 87-1 Class Honor Graduate. Bruce next applied himself as an LA County Sheriff's Department deputy. He'd set his sights on an FBI career, and with typical "B.E. Bennett" drive, he spent the next decade focused on becoming the ideal FBI Special Agent candidate. He married his Iowa soulmate, Michelle (Owensby) Bennett. Bruce and Michelle attained high grades in college while working to support themselves. Bruce studied in Russia, obtained his J.D. from the University of Iowa, and interned at the Kenai (AK) District Attorney's Office.
In 1999, Bruce was offered a slot at the FBI Academy. Life was great. In January 2000, while Bruce was nearing Academy graduation, Michelle suddenly fell gravely ill. Bruce rushed to Iowa to be with her, but she died within a few weeks. Days later, Bruce returned to the Academy, graduating in March 2000 as a Special Agent, but without his beloved in attendance.
Bruce was assigned to the FBI Seattle Field Office. His skills and intelligence were quickly recognized, and he was selected for SWAT and OCONUS assignments, including in Afghanistan. In 2007 he was selected as the Islamabad, Pakistan FBI Acting Legal Attache (Legat) and then Assistant Legat, at a time when a restive Pakistan was experiencing unrelenting Islamist bombings, kidnappings, and sieges.
In Islamabad, Bruce and three other FBI SAs were among those wounded in the Luna Caprese bombing on 3/15/2008. Ball bearings and shrapnel tore through Bruce's body, lodging in his head and slicing a vocal chord. He was knocked unconscious. His left leg was temporarily paralyzed and he never would regain feeling in his ankle or foot. For the rest of his life, he existed in tremendous pain. He talked about the constant pain wore him down. He had no escape from it. Leery of how his physical and mental health might be perceived by his employer, Bruce declined pursuing some types of potential assistance.
From 2008 to 2012, Bruce physically recovered in Seattle and remarried. He and his wife relocated to Minot (ND), where Bruce excelled at working drug and violent crime cases with state, local, and tribal investigators. The senior Agent in a tiny yet fast-paced office, Bruce was the light and voice of sanity and experience. Investigators, prosecutors, and crime victims alike trusted his judgment and leadership. Despite the accolades he earned during his career, Bruce was humble, readily shifting praise to his colleagues. After spending nearly his entire adult life in service to the United States and the most vulnerable of her citizens, Bruce retired in March 2020. He committed suicide ten months later.
Character Strength Story:
Bruce often said that if he told his life story, no one would believe it. If one were to untangle one of the most luminous threads from the tapestry of his life, it would be the color of Perseverance. As a child, Bruce was struck with hands and objects, and went to school hungry. He would fall asleep crying from hunger pangs. At home, he would kill the rats that came out of the walls at night. He slept in an attic where snow fell on his bed. Bruce was dissuaded from education past high school by the very people who could have been his biggest supporters. He was told that his type of people don't go to college. Yet he wanted more, wanted out, wanted to achieve something big, something meaningful, and he was not going to let anything stand in his way. He didn't listen to the people around him who told him his destiny was to work in a factory the rest of his life. He knew the world had many things to offer and that he was capable of discovering them. He left home as soon as he could, going with the Marine Corps to Sicily, and then to Scout - Sniper school, where he distinguished himself as the honors graduate. He worked while getting his AA degree in less than 18 months. He honed his law enforcement skills as a sheriff's deputy. Then he cleaned harvesters and worked construction to put himself through school, dropping out along the way in order to save more money for tuition, living at one point in a house without running water due to lack of funds. He came from nothing, had nothing to rely on except his internal strength, but had dreams of something bigger and of a higher purpose. Bruce married a woman who shared his dreams, who also wanted to get away from an environment where there were ideas that one simply was predestined to repeat the same steps, work the same work, and live the same lives as the previous generation. They were building their dream together when Bruce accepted a conditional Special Agent appointment and went to the FBI Academy. They would not both live to see him graduate the FBI Academy. Michelle took ill and died suddenly. Bruce could have given up his dream of being a Special Agent, or postponed it a while, and no one would have thought any ill of him. But he was back at the FBI Academy within days of burying his wife. There was still so much he had to do. He went on to excel as an investigator. He was intelligent, dedicated, and courageous. In Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, he was in his element, living his dream. During the course of his careers, Bruce was beaten, injured jumping out of a helicopter, shot, and "blown up". He represented the FBI in Pakistan during an extremely volatile and dangerous time in Pakistan's modern history, conducting liaison with intelligence agencies of all stripes. He arrested terrorists, murderers, kidnappers, child molesters and rapists. His integrity was impeccable. Bruce was born an unwanted burden to a terrorized teenager who was herself the victim of a terrible crime. He was told repeatedly during his youth that he was stupid, lazy, and worthless. Yet he overcame all obstacles to achieve exactly what he desired: to be a hero, to be a part of something higher and greater than himself, to do things others cannot or will not do, and to live life on his own terms. -Submitted by Megan, Surviving Wife