Benton, Ill. native killed while defusing mines in Iraq honored at high school football game

Benton High School honors man

BENTON, Ill. (KFVS) - A Benton native killed in Iraq while defusing mines was honored at Benton High School’s football game Friday night.

He graduated from Benton High School in 2006 and his coach, Justin Groves, remembered his big heart and caring ways.

Groves said the game started as a military appreciation night, but that turned into more after Pinson’s passing.

“When I got the news standing on the football field at practice last week, this game was on my mind because we were making preparations for the military night and trying to make it nice, and when you got hit with that, I mean, instantly you knew that all the sudden this game had importance and had some meaning now,” he said.

Football players wore helmets with 52, Pinson’s number.

“We’ll always remember number 52 in his football uniform or Brandon Pinson in his cut-off t-shirt going to the weight room, but the man in the uniform’s the one we’re gonna celebrate tonight,” Groves said.

He said he heard the news of Pinson’s death while on the football field.

Raised in Benton, Groves said Pinson served in the U.S. Army for 10 years. After that he went back overseas with a private company.

“For me, personally, it was hard because, ya know, for four years he was one of my guys,” Groves said.

That’s when Groves said he knew a game that started as a military appreciation night had a new importance and meaning.

“We’re gonna honor him and honor our service men and women and just try to do something nice to let his legacy kind of live on,” he said.

Bryson Hammond graduated high school with Pinson and played football with him.

“He was a friend,” Hammond said. “He was a teammate. He cared for others.”

Hammond said the Benton community’s support of the game and for Pinson is overwhelming. Several of Pinson’s teammates traveled back home to be there for him too.

“He always had our backs and it’s kind of clear with giving his life for his country that he not only had our backs, but he had the whole country’s back, and it’s just an honor to be a part of this,” he said.

Groves said they’re honoring every service member present on Friday night and serving them a free meal. They also planned a ceremony before the game started at 7 p.m.

Copyright 2019 KFVS. All rights reserved.