Corporal Howard Bentley, originally of Greenup County, is one of four war veterans who earned the status of Kentucky Colonel on Wednesday.
Gov. Andy Beshear commissioned Bentley, Sgt. Jim Etheridge (Trigg County), Staff Sgt. Henry Breithaupt (Christian County), Cpl. Elwood Richardson (Christian County) and Bentley as Kentucky Colonels. Etheridge, Breithaupt and Richardson were present in the Capitol building on Wednesday. The 98-year-old Bentley, who lives in Columbus, did not attend due to a respiratory issue, according to Rep. Dr. Danny Bentley, his nephew.
Howard Bentley was drafted into the Army while working in the shipyards in Baltimore, according to a release from the governor’s office. He became one of the state’s most decorated soldiers during World War II.
Danny Bentley said his uncle rarely told war stories, but he did divulge a couple of tales at a family reunion about 10 years ago.
One, in particular, occurred when he was pinned down by the Japanese and he had bad ringworm. He was sent to a Navy hospital for a haircut. The barber looked at him and said, “Is that you, Howard?” The barber was his brother in-law.
“My mom’s brother was cutting my dad’s brother’s hair,” Danny Bentley said.
One must rewind to 1953 to capture Danny Bentley’s first memory of his uncle. Danny was 3 and Howard had just come home from the Korean War.
“He didn’t have any boys,” Danny Bentley said of his father’s (Roy’s) older brother. “He took me up on his lap and he just hugged me. The way he held me is hard to describe. That was 67 years ago, and I still remember it.”
Longevity is common in Bentley’s family. As mentioned previously, Howard is 98. Danny’s mother, Avanell, just turned 96 earlier this week.
Howard Bentley was one of only four in U.S. military history to receive the U.S. Presidential Unit Citation in its entirety. He served in the 96th Infantry Division.
Bentley collected esteemed accolades — a Bronze Star, two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters, the Good Conduct Medal, the Philippine Citation Award, the Presidential Citation, two Beachhead Arrows, the Combat Infantry Badge, the World War II Victory Medal and a Purple Heart.
Bentley served in the Army Reserves following an honorable discharge in 1946. He was called back into duty to serve during the Korean War in 1950. He received a Bronze Star and two more Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters while serving with the 394th Chemical Smoke Company.
Danny Bentley said he still talks with his uncle often.
“I just pick up the phone and call him,” he said.
Beshear said he was pleased to name Ethridge, Breithaupt, Richardson and Bentley Kentucky Colonels.
“We can never do enough to thank these veterans who, as young men, risked their lives to stand up to tyranny and forever changed the course of history,” Beshear said. “I am honored just to be in their presence. As a small thank you for their selfless service to our nation, I am proud to honor each of them as a Kentucky Colonel.”
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