RICHMOND — Beneath a pelting rain and gray skies rumbling with thunder, a Madison County native killed in Afghanistan was laid to rest Wednesday in Richmond Cemetery.
Brett Benton, 37, of Dry Ridge was killed June 4 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Afghanistan's Laghman Province. He was employed by a government contractor responsible for mentoring and training the Afghan National Police.
During the funeral service, First Christian Church Senior Minister Betsy Goehrig said Benton "did what he did because he truly had a servant's heart."
"He went to Afghanistan not to fight a war but to train peacekeepers," Benton said. "Brett went on behalf of his family, his department, his community, his nation, on behalf of a world that desperately needs peacekeepers."
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After graduating from Madison Central High School in Richmond, Benton worked for the Kentucky State Police and Nicholasville Police. For 10 years, he was employed by the Kenton County Police, where he started the K-9 program. His dog, Tommy, died some years ago, but the dog's ashes were to be buried with Benton, said Kenton County Police Chief Ed Butler.
Benton came up with the idea for a K-9 unit for Kenton County Police, said Erlanger Police K-9 Officer David Lillich.
"He found the place where to buy the dog and where to train the dog," Lillich said. "His dog was a dual-purpose patrol dog: track bad guys and find drugs.
"There was one particular incident where a guy had just committed a robbery and he was hiding in the bushes, and he actually had the gun to his head," Lillich recalled. "And Brett and his dog, Tommy, tracked to where this guy was, and the dog bit the guy where the gun was in his hand and pulled it, and the gun went off, so it actually kept the guy from killing himself."
Benton and his wife of nearly nine years, Bethany, had hoped to move back to the Richmond area after he finished his job in Afghanistan, Lillich said.
At the time of his death, Benton was employed by DynCorp International, which is under contract with the U.S. Army to provide training for Afghan National Police. He'd been in Afghanistan only 23 days before his death.
DynCorp has lost 27 employees in Afghanistan, Iraq and Bosnia, said Pascal Budge, a vice president of the company.
"We recognize the individual that Brett was and what he meant to the community here," Budge said. "That's really evidenced by the outpouring of condolences and expressions of remorse and regret.
"Brett made the deliberate commitment, understanding the significance of the potential danger to himself and others. He made the commitment to sacrifice a portion of the conveniences that exist here at home to give of himself, to do something bigger than himself, to contribute to something historic. For us, at least, his sacrifice will never be forgotten."