Zion-Benton News


Stories from the May 19, 2016 Issue

He served as a

‘River Rat’ in Vietnam

By Sandy Dickson
Zion-Benton News staff 

What is a river rat you might ask. In Vietnam, it was a person who was patrolling the river from a small boat about 30 feet long and 10 feet wide, usually carrying only four aboard: the coxswain (who steers the boat) forward gunner, engineer and rear gunner, but since their training included manning all those positions, they switched around to make it less boring.

Dennis Barden was on such a boat for a bit over year as he served in the U.S. Navy in Vietnam. On the small boat, Barden was mainly an engineer and boat captain. There was no ‘below deck’ on this boat, only a small on-deck cabin for radio and radar equipment, ammo, mortars, food and a bit of shelter and relaxation. Their main function was to keep the Viet Cong from moving their supplies down the riverways and around Saigon. They also stopped sampans with goods for market to search for weapons.
His boat never found anything, but others did. Did he see any combat? Oh, yes!

“The U.S. policy, and it hasn’t changed much over the years, is that we couldn’t fire until we were fired upon, and that has done nothing but hurt us. It’s been that way since Kennedy’s era. You can’t win a war if you can’t fight.”

He tells about one night when they were mortared on the river, saying the Viet Cong preferred attacking at night when it was really dark. “A mortar is a tube with a propellant put inside. They blast the tube off, and when it hits something, it explodes, so they can’t be exactly accurate. Shrapnel fell all around us, but fortunately none hit the boat.”  More...

ZB NJROTC named most outstanding in the nation

By Mona Shannon

Zion-Benton News staff 

The NJROTC unit at Zion-Benton Township High School has won many awards and recognitions but this year they took the top honor. The Z-BTHS unit was named the most outstanding unit the nation by the Navy League.

“We were shocked when we got the news we were selected,” said Cmdr. Steve Schulte.
This is a prestigious honor, over 600 schools with NJROTC units compete for these awards. To earn this award, each unit is evaluated in a number of areas.

How they’re evaluated
Schulte explained the unit is evaluated by the Navy all year long. There is an annual on-site inspection, where they look at the cadets, the administration, the finance records, the school. “We have a drill team and rifle team and they look at how they perform nationally. And we take a big annual academic test.”.

Schulte said they evaluated first by the Area 3 manager who chooses the top district unit. “I must submit an end of year report in March detailing community service, accomplishments, school events. The area manager chooses the outstanding school and for the third consecutive year it was Z-BTHS.”  More...

Photo of the Week

A pie in the face to fight cancer

Shiloh Park teacher Ms. Epker willing takes a pie in the face from student Adrian, as his reward for raising or donating $25 to the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. The students walked to CTCA at Midwestern with a special purpose of remembering a Central Middle School teacher who lost her battle to cancer last year.


40 years of service

Deputy Chief Bill Beetschen of the Winthrop Harbor Fire Department has been recognized for working 40 years in the Emergency Medical Services field. Shown with him at the ceremony is Dave Chase, the System Coordinator for North Lake County EMS.


Isabelle Stilson, a District 1 alumus, was awarded the WHSD1 Alumni scholarship by Winthrop Harbor teacher Ronda Nissen. The recipient must have attended Winthrop Harbor Schools K-8, be ranked in the top 20 percent of their Z-BTHS class and submit a short response answering how their elementary schools years influenced the student they are now.


Senior Raven Morris finished in third place at the IHSA state finals in girls’ track last week. She won while setting a personal record of 42’ 2.25” in shot put. She is pictured competing earlier this season.