Hometown Heroes - Bennie Maylen

Published: Apr. 20, 2023 at 7:57 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - A Lake Charles veteran of World War II served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific Theater of the war. Bennie Maylen returned to Southwest Louisiana to continue his family’s tradition of firefighting. He said he experienced fear, just like many other soldiers.

“Every time we’d do something, I’d get scared,” recalled Maylen.”But it had to be done.”

Maylen served in ground combat demolition as his unit hopped from island to island, disrupting Japanese communications.

“Well, there would ten of us going in with a submarine. Then we’d leave the submarine and go onshore and blow up Japanese radio stations.”

His unit conducted specialized missions and were the predecessors of the Navy SEALS.

“On one island, we lost 6 out of 10. The lieutenant lost his right hand. Another one got hit in the back. Paralyzed for life.”

When Maylen returned from the war, he became a Lake Charles firefighter, like his father and grandfather. His son Raymond served for 33 years.

“There’s not enough money in it,” said Raymond Maylen, talking about his dad’s efforts to convince him not to join the fire department. “He said, ‘you put your life on the line all the time.’ Of course, I just came back from Vietnam so that didn’t bother me either. When I did eventually go to work on the fire department, Feb. 3, 1971, he was the happiest person in the world.”

Bennie Maylen’s two grandsons have also served in the Lake Charles Fire Department and a great-grandson serves in Deridder. Another great-grandson is still in high school, but is considering firefighting as a career.