By Paul Gable
(Ed. Note – After a five day hiatus thanks to Hurricane Matthew including four days without electricity, the internet and cell phones, Grand Strand Daily is up and running again.)
The recent break because of Hurricane Matthew allowed me to gain new insight to local community activist Bennie Swans.
Not having all the benefits of modern world communications, I had the opportunity to catch up on some old fashioned reading from books, much of it by candlelight.
One extract I read, from “It Took Heroes, Volume II”, spoke about Bennie Swans during the time he spent in Vietnam in 1969 as a member of the U.S. Army.
Swans’ squad was ambushed in action on June 5, 1969. After squad leader, Sgt. Jack Hatfield, and point man Cpl. David Mann, were cut down by enemy fire, the following extract from an on the scene account by GI Larry McVay was quoted (page 155 of It Took Heroes, Vol. II):
“Jack and David were gut shot. David died instantly, Jack died slower…Benny Swans, a husky Black man and Hatfield’s assistant machine gunner, rushed forward…The rest of the 2nd Platoon and a few men from other platoons rushed forward to support Hatfield’s squad. Benny was like a man possessed – like John Wayne to me. Although being severely wounded, Benny poured accurate fire into the enemy positions and kept them at bay until our KIA’s and WIA’s were pulled back…”
I have been proud to call Bennie Swans a friend since I first met him after he moved to Horry County over 10 years ago. I knew Swans was a highly decorated veteran of the Vietnam War (several silver stars and purple hearts among his medals) but I never knew the specifics of any of the action he saw.
Many veterans today are called heroes because they served in the military. Swans really is one.
Swans is known locally as a community activist whose primary interest is reducing violence and drug use in our local communities. As with any community activist, Swans has been the subject of both praise and criticism for stands he has taken.
However, much of the criticism has been from local officials who never served in the military and whose idea of sacrifice is skipping lunch to attend to public matters.
The Horry County Community Violence Subcommittee is moving toward making some crucial decisions about initiatives it will recommend to aid our local communities.
As the sub-committee moves forward, I hope Swans’ input and goals are incorporated into future recommendations to combat violence in our community.