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Joan Knows: Local author of ‘The Killing Birds’ makes hometown proud

It has been a wonderful week for the Bennett family. You may know them.  There’s Lisa, the matriarch, who has been a longtime area resident, active in community affairs, consulting in business development and on staff at the library. There are three daughters – Laura, Amanda and Kate – and one son – Richard.

 The excitement centers around Rich and baseball.

Recently, People magazine and the Major League Baseball organization launched a joint effort to recognize and honor servicemen – called “Heroes”  – through a competition where one representative for each Major League team is selected. Richard’s sister Laura nominated him and organized a campaign.

Richard Bennett has been selected to represent the Chicago Cubs and was introduced at their home game last Friday. On Tuesday night, he was part of the pre-game activities at the MLB All-Star Game.

There’s more. Rich graduated from St. Charles High School in 2000 – the last class from the one single high school. 

Some may recall his involvement with athletics and the distinction of being among the first male cheerleaders. The Cubs were always his dream team and he reports attending 300 or so games at Wrigley Field, mostly in the left field bleachers.

He started college but interrupted his studies to join the U.S. Army. He was assigned to the 101st Airborne and was deployed to Afghanistan. 

Last year, his book, a collection of blogs titled “The Killing Birds,” came out. 

My appreciation for the book came from the candor, humor and insights, heavy combat and close fellowship.

As reported in his nomination, Richard Bennett was awarded the Silver Star for his action to move under heavy fire to shield a wounded comrade.

Rich called me on Wednesday, as did Lisa and Laura, to share some highlights. Rich reported he was standing at Times Square, still the recipient of MLB hospitality. He and his wife, Heather, were seated at the All-Star Game in one of the luxury suites from which Heather had a great view of the on-field presentation – VIP treatment in every way included.

“The effort of MLB was amazing!” he said, and cited a special tour of the 9/11 site, a salute from NYPD and housing at the same hotel with the All Stars.

He was thrilled to meet the other “heroes,” such as a Navajo code talker who was at Iwo Jima when the American flag was so memorably raised. 

Rich is now living in DeKalb where he attends Northern Illinois University, majoring – as did Laura – in communications.

There was too much traffic uproar for us to keep talking on the phone, yet I wanted to share with him my own Wrigley Field delights.

While a professor in the communications department at Aurora, I taught  a course in sports information. Hoping to establish credibility, I frequently mentioned being there for a no hitter (Lindy McDaniel); the Willie Smith walk-off homer on opening day; the first ever night game; and the sweet memories of seeing Ernie Banks, Hank Sauer, Bobby Rush and the visiting Jackie Robinson, Stan Musial and Willie Mays.

One can only imagine the thrill of standing on the infield grass, alongside the team, as Wayne Messmer sings the national anthem. 

Let’s just be proud that the soldier standing there was our hometown guy – and remember him and all the heroes  today, who serve and protect.

Hats off to Rich! Go Cubs! Saints go marching in!

 • Joan Arteberry is a longtime resident of St. Charles. Her columns are featured in the Kane County Chronicle’s Neighbors section every other Friday. Write to her at

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