New Canaan’s Steve Benko often recalls a photo that used to hang in his grandparents’ Summer Street home. It showed John and Elizabeth Benko sitting together on their front porch, while in the window hung a banner with five gold stars, indicating that five sons were in service of the nation.
Steve, Paul, John, Lewis and William Benko had volunteered to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces in the months that followed the Pearl Harbor attack. Lewis Benko, a great local athlete, enlisted in the U.S. Marines in September 1942. He was wounded in July 1944 at Saipan, rejoined his unit five months later, and was killed in action during the assault on Iwo Jima in February 1945—one of 38 New Canaan men to die during World War II.
On Monday morning, Benko quoted something that his uncle Lewis said to Elizabeth as she dropped her son off at the train station prior to his leaving New Canaan for what would be the last time. “He says to my grandmother, ‘Gosh, I would never want to live anywhere else but this place,’ ” Benko told more than 150 residents gathered at God’s Acre on a clear, cool morning for the town’s annual Veterans Day ceremony, quoting from a 1946 Gold Star book featuring stories about the servicemen who never came home.