Hundreds gather to pay final respects to fallen State Trooper Ted Benda

Honored and escorted to his final resting place ... The funeral procession for fallen Iowa State Trooper Ted Benda traveled beneath a large ceremonial flag, called a garrison flag, on the way to Trooper Benda’s final resting place at Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Waukon Wednesday, October 27. Approximately 250 vehicles from law enforcement agencies from across Iowa and the nation took part in the procession, passing under the garrison flag flown courtesy of a Decorah Fire Department aerial truck.

In honor of a former student and fallen Trooper ... The playground fence at St. Patrick School located directly across from the entrance to St. Patrick Catholic Church in Waukon was adorned by school staff and students Tuesday, October 26 in honor and memory of Iowa State Patrol Trooper Ted Benda, who passed away as the result of injuries suffered in an October 14 single-vehicle accident responding to a call while on duty. As a youth, Trooper Benda was an elementary student at St. Patrick School and his visitation was held at St. Patrick Church that same October 26 afternoon. The memorial included balloons, black and blue ribbons tied to the fence by students, heart flags colored by students and stuck into the ground, signs created locally in honor of Trooper Benda, and a large “313” sign (313 was Trooper Benda’s badge number) made of handprints (visible in inset photo above) from students, with all St. Patrick School grade levels involved in creating the memorial in honor of their former fellow student.

Honoring a fallen colleague ... Approximately 250 vehicles from law enforcement agencies from across Iowa and the nation participated in the funeral procession that traveled through downtown Waukon and was lined with those honoring fallen Iowa State Patrol Trooper Ted Benda. Trooper Benda was laid to rest at Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Waukon Wednesday, October 27. Standard photo by Joe Moses.

Family, friends and hundreds of colleagues in law enforcement from near and far descended upon Waukon Tuesday and Wednesday, October 26 and 27 to pay their final respects to Iowa State Trooper and Waukon native Ted Benda. The 37-year-old husband and father of four young daughters suffered fatal injuries in an October 14 single-vehicle crash north of Postville while on duty and responding to a late evening call for assistance, ultimately succumbing to those injuries Wednesday, October 20 at Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center in La Crosse, WI.

Visitation for Trooper Benda was held Tuesday evening, October 26 at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Waukon, and his funeral service was held the following day in the gymnasium of the Waukon High School, where he graduated from in 2002. That gymnasium was filled to capacity in both its bleacher and floor seating by family, friends and colleagues, with Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and Lt. Governor Adam Gregg among those in attendance.

Prior to the service, Colonel Nathan Fulk, Chief of the Iowa State Patrol, shared some final thoughts on Trooper Benda’s passing. “This is a very tragic time for the community of Waukon and the Iowa State Patrol and the law enforcement community. Trooper Ted Benda was a dedicated husband, father, son, brother, mentor and pillar in the community, focused on law enforcement,” Col. Fulk reflected. ”I’m going to share a story that really highlights Ted Benda’s service. Since his passing, we have had law enforcement officers providing overwatch at the house, and support. Every day since his passing his daughters would bake cookies for the officers staged outside of their house. That’s just a reminder of the parenthood and the way he raised his children to be servants and professional individuals in the community. It’s important to share that story.”

Col. Fulk also commented on Benda’s service in his tenure with the Iowa State Patrol, noting, “We would like you to know that Trooper Ted Benda was a dedicated public servant. We are grateful for his service. We are grateful that he put the safety of Iowans first and supported the local community here in Waukon. We really appreciate the outpouring of support from the community in northeast Iowa.”

Commissioner of the Iowa Department of Public Safety Stephan K. Bayens provided the eulogy during Trooper Benda’s funeral service, noting that “our hearts are certainly heavy-laden, but our spirit remains strong as we carry forward his memory and his legacy.”

Commissioner Bayens addressed the question he figured that many in attendance may have had on their minds, and one that he, growing up as the son of a police officer, pondered as he grew up: “Why do (first responders) do it, why do they take the risk?”

Bayens said he did not discover the answer to that question until later in his life when he found an old newspaper clipping from 1975 that included an article utilizing an interview with his police officer father after he had run into a burning building and saved a young boy. Bayens said the article included a two-word answer from his father that finally helped him understand that question of “why?”, and that answer was, simply, “My boy.”

Bayens went on to further clarify his understanding when he explained that the actions and service of law enforcement are not done in disregard to family but, instead, for the love of family. “In law enforcement we are quick to focus on our oath to protect and serve, but when it came to Ted, it was his other vows that truly defined the man. His vow to love and cherish his wife, Holly; his vow to be a caring and doting dad to his girls; his vow to be a good son, a good brother and a good friend. Underpinning every single one of those vows was a sacrificial love for family, friends, community, justice and righteousness.”

Commissioner Bayens noted that even after his passing, Trooper Benda continues to serve, as he was an organ donor. He noted that even on the darkest of days when the Benda family may be shedding tears of sorrow, there are also many individuals and families now shedding tears of joy knowing the gift of life Trooper Benda has provided for them with his organ donation.

“Even in death, Ted’s impact was undeniable. On a gray morning in La Crosse, WI last week, Ted’s family, friends and coworkers had a chance to honor his final gift to the world, as he donated his organs to those in need,” Bayens remarked.

Commissioner Baynes’ final message to Trooper Benda’s family was one of gratitude, compassion and understanding: “To Holly and the girls, thank you for sharing your husband and your dad with us. He could not have served the people of Iowa without your steadfast support. His sacrifices were your sacrifices, and we’ll be forever grateful for his service to the Iowa State Patrol and the State of Iowa.”

Once the funeral service was complete, a final traditional end of watch call was issued from Iowa State Patrol dispatch for Trooper Ted Benda, Badge #313: “There is no response from 313. Iowa State Patrol Trooper Ted Benda went 10-42 (end of service) for the last time on October 20, 2021. Trooper Benda, your brothers and sisters in law enforcement will forever watch over your family. May you rest in eternal peace.”

Following the funeral service, a procession involving nearly 250 vehicles from law enforcement agencies from all over the state of Iowa, as well as from some states across the nation (including the Georgia State Patrol), traversed its way from the Waukon High School parking lot to West Main Street, down through the town of Waukon and up Allamakee Street, continuing north on State Highway 9 and then west on Iron Mine Drive to Trooper Benda’s final resting place in Mount Olivet Cemetery northwest of Waukon, where a private burial service with Law Enforcement Honors was conducted. Along the route, where Hwy. 9 intersects with Green Valley Road, a large, ceremonial garrison flag was flown over the highway by an aerial truck from the Decorah Fire Department in honor of Trooper Benda and his service.

The initial release from the Iowa State Patrol regarding the fatal accident reported Trooper Benda was traveling on Highway 51, approximately six miles north of Postville when his vehicle left the roadway October 14 en route to assist a call in Clayton County regarding a wanted subject. The Public Information Office with the Iowa State Patrol says the accident continues to remain under investigation by the department’s Technical Collision Investigation Unit, a message the office continued to convey in a press briefing prior to Trooper Benda’s funeral service. That office further shared that such investigations could take several weeks or up to several months to complete, depending upon the type and amount of information involved.