A Beatrice soldier died Friday in a roadside bomb attack in Iraq.
Army Reserve Pfc. Benjamin J. Slaven, 22, died Friday when a vehicle he was riding in was hit by a roadside bomb, according to family members. Slaven is the son of Bruce and Julie Slaven of Beatrice and Judy and Nick Huenink of Plymouth.
“It just doesn't seem real,” his grandmother, Beverly Malchow of Beatrice, said Monday, sitting in her living room with pictures of the family's military veterans decorating one wall. “He will be missed. Everyone thought a lot of him.”
Both of Slaven's parents served in the military, as did an uncle and two aunts, Malchow said. His sister, Misti Slaven, is currently serving at an Army base in El Paso, Texas.
Judy Huenink said her son was a person who liked to help other people. She recalled a recent Christmas when he showed up on the doorstep of a local family and handed over his paycheck to them so they would have money to buy presents for their children.
“He was always giving, and he didn't expect anything back,” she said. “He'd give a person his last $20 even if that meant he had to go without something else.”
Being in the military was one more way of giving back, she said. Her son was proud of his military accomplishments.
“He wanted to do his part,” Huenink said. “ He wanted to defend his country.”
Slaven also enjoyed video games, scuba diving, motorcycles, working on cars and fishing, according to family members. When his military career was over he had been thinking of going back to school for underwater welding, his mother said.
“He would make any mother proud,” Huenink said.
Slaven graduated from basic training in 2005 and was deployed to Iraq in March of this year, according to his grandmother. Malchow said she talked to her grandson about a week ago. He was excited because he was expecting to be promoted to specialist soon. He was hoping to work his way up to drill sergeant.
Slaven attended Cedar Elementary in Beatrice and Tri County Public Schools at DeWitt and later earned a general equivalency diploma from Southeast Community College. He also had certificates in welding and scuba diving, according to family members. At the time of his deployment he was working at Beatrice State Developmental Center.
While the military has not yet confirmed it, news of Slaven's death started to spread Saturday in the community.
The Beatrice Speedway was one of the first organizations to recognize Slaven's sacrifice.
Beatrice Speedway promoter Tim Fralin, a former Marine himself, said the flag at the racetrack was at half-staff during Saturday night's racing program in honor of Slaven.
Fralin said he first heard about Slaven's death earlier in the day on Saturday. Slaven had no direct connection to the Speedway or racing, Fralin said.
“We just did it because he was a Beatrice soldier,” Fralin said.
Slaven's memory was also honored with a four-abreast formation by racers during the IMCA Modified parade lap prior to the start of the division's A Feature. Slaven was also a friend of several members of the local band Whizker Biskit, which performed at the Speedway following the races Saturday night.
Honoring the memory of those serving in the military from the Beatrice area is not something new for the racing community.
Another fallen Beatrice soldier, Darren Howe, was honored with a moment of silence prior to the start of the IMCA Spring Nationals in March. Howe died in November from injuries he suffered in a roadside bomb attack in Iraq. Howe and Slaven were born on the same date, March 20, 1984.
Funeral arrangements for Slaven will be made pending the return of Slaven's body from overseas.