Simply put, Don Weiler Bennion was a man from another time.
Decades before he was Dr. Bennion and the grandfather of Salt Lake Community College student Brad Bennion, he was just Weiler, a boy who split his years between schooling in Salt Lake and the family ranch in Manila.
Weiler spent his long summer days herding sheep, riding horses, hunting, and fishing, and his family often heard him say it was “the perfect place for a boy to grow up.”
But before long, the looming shadow of World War II beckoned the servicemen and women of the United States. The attack on Pearl Harbor provided the impetus for Weiler to join the Air Force, then the newly-fledged Army Air Corps. However, an asthmatic Weiler was forced out of the Air Corps, but found he made an excellent candidate for the United States Marines, where Weiler was promoted to Captain in a short time.
Allied plans soon took him to the Japanese island of Iwo Jima, participating in the invasion there, in conjunction with D-Day on the European front. Weiler soon learned that war was an experience you would do to forget.
According to Brad, his grandpa never really talked about the war as a child, the only evidence for this article being a single letter written to his family, a month after the famous flag raising at Mount Suribachi, which Weiler witness personally from the base of the mountain.
Six months later, the Japanese had surrendered and the war was over. Weiler parted from his troop, and to Brad’s knowledge never saw them, or the South Pacific, again.
Professional and volunteer endeavors
Weiler graduated from first the University of Utah, then from a separate dental school, and opened a successful practice in Millcreek, where he met his wife. Nearly fifty years later, during his retirement, Weiler spent his remaining days volunteering at the Veterans Hospital and Salt Lake County Aging Department, spending enough hours in the service of the community to be formally honored by Mayor Corroon in 2011.
Brad talks about how whenever his grandfather was in public and saw fellow veterans in uniform, he would make a point to approach them and shake each of their hands. Weiler believed he was a small part of a larger community, and devoted part of his time as a dentist to providing free services for clients who couldn’t pay.
Furthermore, after Weiler was discharged, he voted in every local, state, and federal election he could, as he knew that however insignificant a vote may seem, it doesn’t seem quite as insignificant after you’ve seen a foxhole full of dead men, who fought to keep that right alive.
Brad says he believes his grandfather’s service directly influenced his thinking about how we as individuals should fit into a community, that everyone has a way to give back.
Brad explains that what he has learned about his grandfather’s life has made him strive to be a better student, to seek to use his natural talents to better enrich those around him.