GLENDORA - Friends and family gathered Saturday to pay their respects and say goodbye to a Glendora soldier who gave his life protecting fellow soldiers from harm in Afghanistan.
Army Staff Sgt. Kenneth Wade Bennett, known to friends and family as Wade, was killed by an improvised explosive device Nov. 10 in Sperwan Ghar, Afghanistan.
A member of the 53rd Ordnance Company of the Army's 3rd Ordnance Battalion, Wade was charged with the dangerous task of locating and disabling IED's and other bombs before they injured or killed his brothers in arms.
Bennett made the "lonely walk" to defuse explosives countless times during his three deployments to the Middle East dating back to 2007, said his sister, Rene Bennett.
Another solider from Wade's company, Staff Sgt. Nicholas J. Reid, 26, of New York, died Dec. 13 after being wounded by an IED Dec, 9 in the same region of Afghanistan where Wade Bennett was killed, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.
Wade leaves behind his wife, Mandi, and 2-year-old daughter, Lili Grace, along with his parents, Ken and Nancy Bennett. Wade and Mandi Bennett were also expecting their second child.
"I don't want to live my life without him," Mandi Bennett said. "Every night when I go to sleep, I pray you'll come to me in my dreams so we can be together again."
When she recently told her husband she was pregnant with their second child, she recalled, he was so excited that, "He stood up on the table and shouted at the restaurant."
Tyler Gotch said he became close friends with Bennett when the two attended Glendora High School, where Bennett graduated in 2004.
He shared memories of wild nights spent with his friend, as well as the lessons his friends taught him and the impact the fallen soldier made on his life.
"He lived his life the way he wanted to live. He dictated his own life," Gotch said. "And I admire him for that."
"It's an entirely unfillable void," Gotch said. "I'm going to miss him, and I love him."
Veterans from the AMVETS carried out a flag-folding ceremony and a 21-gun salute, and Los Angeles County firefighters erected a massive American flag in front of Glenkirk Church, where hundreds of mourners gathered.
During his career, Bennett earned honors including the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, an Army Good Conduct Medal with three bronze loops, a National Defense Medal, a Defense Meritorious Service Medal and an Army Commendation Medal.
He was also posthumously awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
SSG Bennett is survived by his wife, Mandi, his children Lila Grace and Wade Zeus, as well as his parents Nancy and Ken Bennett, and sister Rene.