Mike Benge was born on August 6, 1935, in Denver, Colorado. After completing 2 years of undergraduate studies at Oregon State University, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps on January 11, 1956, and was trained as an Aircraft Mechanic. After completing training, Benge served with H&MS-15 of Marine Air Group 15 at MCAS El Toro, California, until December 1957, when he transferred to H&MS-12 of Marine Air Group 12 in the 1st Marine Air Wing at Iwakuni, Japan, where he served until March 1959. Sgt Benge left active duty on March 21, 1959, and served in the Marine Corps Reserve until receiving his honorable discharge on January 10, 1962. Mike completed his Bachelor of Science Degree in Agricultural Engineering at Oregon State University in 1962, and he joined the International Voluntary Service, serving in South Vietnam, starting in 1963. He next joined the United States Agency for International Development, where he served as a Provencal Development Officer in the Civil Operations and Rural Development Support program in South Vietnam from January 1965 until he was captured and taken as a Prisoner of War during the Tet Offensive on January 28, 1968. After spending 1,864 days in captivity, Mike was released during Operation Homecoming on March 5, 1973. He then returned to South Vietnam and continued his work with the Ministry of Ethnic Minorities until 1974, when he was assigned to the USAID Mission in the Philippines, returning to the U.S. in 1979. Mike retired from USAID and currently serves as the Senior Advisor to the Montagnard Human Rights Organization based in Raleigh, North Carolina.
The Citation for His 1st Award for Valor from the U.S. State Department reads:
Mr. Michael D. Benge distinguished himself by his heroic actions to insure the safety of eleven American civilian government workers and civilian missionaries during the Viet Cong Tet Offensive on 30 January 1968. Without regard for his own personal safety he visited all the civilian government employees in the province capital at a time when enemy units occupied large sections of the city and enemy snipers were positioned throughout the city. After having delivered the last civilian government employee to safety, he drove into a section of Banmethuot known to be occupied by VC and NVA units in an attempt to rescue the missionaries living in the occupied part of the city.