Member name: Gaetano "Guy" Benza
Title: Retired Barber
Member since: September 1979
Las Vegas resident since: 1965
Gaetano "Guy" Benza, a retired barber from Jesse's Barber Shop on East Tropicana Ave. was an Army private on an amphibious craft on June 7, 1944 that hauled supplies and ammunition to infantry soldiers on Omaha Beach.
"I saw many (bodies) lying on the beach," he said. One of Benza's most frightening moments happened one night while he was on board an ammunition ship.
The whole sky lit up all of a sudden. That was a flare from a German fighter plane. He proceeded to drop bombs," Benza recalled. "I can honestly tell you the fellows and myself (ages) 19 to 25, all we did was get down on our knees and pray to God, and we were saying goodbye to our mothers and fathers because there was no way we were ever going to get out of this. "
From an article by Keith Rogers – Las Vegas Review Journal
Q: Favorite thing about One Nevada?
ONCU is the institution I have been at the longest. I appreciate the great and outstanding service. It is a pleasure to come in and see the folks there.
Q: Can you tell us about your military career and how long you served?
When I was 17 I wanted to join the service but my parents would not let me, so when I turned 18, I went into the army. I went to Normandy and Le Harve. I served the army for 3 years.
Q: What was the most memorable time in your military career?
Serving for my country, the U.S.A. Another time was receiving my French Legion of Honor award.
Q: How did you make the transition from military to become a barber?
My whole family was barbers. I worked at IBM and went to barber school, later went to work with my father and uncle at their shop.
Q: I'm sure you have met a lot of interesting people during your career, anyone in particular that stands out? .
One interesting person I met was Al Bremlin from the "Old Las Vegas Era." Another interesting person that I met "not" in Las Vegas but in New York at the Aqueduct Racetrack was Frank Sinatra. I was in a back-up choir for Frank Sinatra and was asked to sing alongside of him.
Q: Have you cut hair for any celebrities or entertainers?
At the Dunes way back, I groomed Al Bremlin and also Rovan who was the lead singer for Casino De Paris.
Q: What has been the best part about your career as a barber?
Meeting new people, doing a good job in my craft. It has been a pleasure doing it. I have been doing it for 55 years.
Q: Tell us about your speaking engagements and functions you participate in relating to your time in the service.
I am proud to speak to the middle and high schools about my army and Normandy experiences, giving them a true history lesson. I speak once a month at the Nellis Air Force Base leadership school. I have also been featured in a few magazines.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time? Any hobbies or activities you'd like to share?
When I was younger I loved to roller skate and ice skate. I still occasionally sing. I have had a book written about my war experience in Normandy called Le Harve. It will be out electronically in January and then in paperback.