WWII U.S. Army corporal who was missing in action is laid to rest in Miami Lakes

Community By Linda Trischitta, Editor Wednesday, June 5, 2024

     U.S. Army Cpl. Frank V. Benak is finally at rest.

     Decades after being killed in action during World War II, he was interred April 12 at Vista Memorial Gardens in Miami Lakes.

     Benak, from Scottville, Mich., enlisted to fight the Japanese during World War II. He was killed in action on Dec. 5, 1942, outside of a village in Papua, New Guinea.

     The 24-year-old soldier was shot during “heavy enemy fire” while “forward of Allied lines” and never returned from patrol, according to a U.S. Dept. of Defense report.

     Seventy years later, Australian Defence Force personnel looking for remains of casualties on New Guinea saw Benak’s dog tag in the possession of a village official. The soldier’s unidentified remains had been buried in a village cemetery. 

     Those remains were later moved to the Philippines at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial.

     The U.S. military’s Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency exhumed the remains in 2017 and through DNA and dental records, identified them as the missing soldier.

     The military posthumously awarded Benak the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, for his service and sacrifice.

     Benak’s journey continued to South Florida where he has relatives, said Gary Cardenas, Post Commander of American Legion Post 144 Miami Lakes.

      On a sunny Friday afternoon, Benak was given full military honors before his burial at Vista Memorial Gardens.

     Pallbearers from the U.S. Army carried the coffin to the grave, where there was a rifle salute and a trumpeter played taps. 

     William G. Perez, Ret. Col., U.S. Marine Corps and chair of the Miami Lakes Veterans Committee, presided over the burial ceremony. 

     Perez read the citations for the medals and presented them to Benak’s family. 

     A rabbi who is a friend of the family performed a non-denominational prayer, Cardenas said.

     Miami Lakes Mayor Manny Cid attended the service.

     On behalf of American Legion Post 144, Cardenas presented three flags to the family: The American flag that had covered the coffin, the U.S. Army flag and the Prisoner of War/Missing in Action banner.

     “The ceremony was beautiful and in the end the family was very appreciative of the honors bestowed upon their loved one,” Cardenas said.