SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - After having their U-Haul reportedly stolen during their move to northwest Louisiana, the Bentons say they’re overwhelmed with the support from the community.
“I feel like we were welcomed into this community with open arms and nothing but love,” Benjamin Benton said. “The amount of people who have helped out and donated, just everything. I’m just overwhelmed by the way this community works.”
Kassandra and Benjamin Benton and their two girls were ready to start their new life for Benjamin’s next duty station at Barksdale Air Force Base (BAFB). The family of four stopped for the night in Covington, Georgia just outside of Atlanta for the night and when they woke the next morning, they found their U-Haul had been stolen. All of their belongings were taken, including the ashes of their son, Wyatt.
“They were in a small, black urn that was in the shape of a heart and had some gold etching on the top,” Benton said. “You can’t put a price tag on that stuff. Us losing our child and then losing the urn, it’s like losing him all over again. It’s the worst feeling in the world that I would not wish on anybody.”
Their realtor, Dena West, the base, and the community leapt into action to help the young family. Benton says he cannot thank the community, especially Dena, enough.
“We weren’t expecting this,” Benton said. “Coming here, the community has been amazing and helped us out a lot. Dena has been a huge, huge blessing with everything between house stuff, being here, reaching out to the community. I just can’t even put it into words. That woman is a saint.”
Master Sergeant Gregory Ollison says he got a call from Benton’s former base in North Carolina about what happened and the base quickly got to work.
“I called my first sergeant counsel team members and they immediately started assisting,” Ollison said. “We came to Airmen’s Attic, got them a few things, met up with them, and have been going ever since then. The Air Force is probably one of the biggest families I have ever been in. No matter race, religion, gender, sex, orientation, we made sure you are taken care of.”
Organizations like Every Warrior and Airmen’s Attic were just some of those in the community that have been assisting the Bentons.
“The Airmen’s Attic is a place where they can come get all kinds of things,” Stefanie Markin, the volunteer manager at Airmen’s Attic, said. “It’s a free thrift shop for our active duty. Household items, food, military uniforms, clothing, even school supplies, and they get them free of charge.”
Trey McGuire, president of Every Warrior, a military support charity, says they’re raising funds to help the Bentons purchase necessities as well.
“They have seen amazing support from friends, organizations, churches, base leadership, etc... all spanning multiple states,” McGuire wrote in a Facebook post. “While we can never replace the horrific loss of the remains of their child, we can help ease the overall physical burden that will allow them the space to process what has happened, and that’s all we want to do.”
Separate from the donations being collected for the Bentons, an anonymous donor contributed a $3,000 reward in coordination with the Covington Police Department for the return of Wyatt’s ashes.
Covington police say the family’s U-Haul was found abandoned, but that officers could not find Wyatt’s ashes.
They say the investigation is ongoing.
A number of area realtors and the family’s soon-to-be neighbors have stepped up and created a GoFundMe account to help the family start over.
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