AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — After serving in the Army during the Vietnam War, Johnny Bennett, returned to his home in Pampa and to a world where he felt unwelcome and alone.
He stayed put in the High Plains for decades afterward.
“We get on the airplane and we’re proud,” Bennett said. “We done this for America, we thought, you know, but it wasn’t like that. People didn’t want us back home. When they put us on the airplane, they put us in and back and drew a curtain.”
Johnny’s brother, Harley, also a Vietnam War Veteran, was in the Navy, mostly working classified submarine missions in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Johnny said Harley has been there every step of the way, supporting him.
“Johnny had a lot of combat experience that he had overcome and live through,” Harley said, “and I know he struggled with it, and he will for the rest of his life. He still does today.”
Johnny has dealt with severe post-traumatic stress since the war. He fears for fellow Vietnam War Veterans as they try to deal with their experiences.
“Nobody would understand the Vietnam veteran, what he went through over there and what he is going through still today,” Johnny said. “I was afraid to go to the VA hospital because I didn’t trust those people. Again, my brother stood by my side and we went to the VA hospital and they’ve helped out a lot too.”
Since flying back from war, Johnny had never been on another airplane or traveled far from home.
“Johnny, he got out of the army, I think it was in ‘68 and I don’t think he left the Panhandle till he went on the Honor Flight,” Harley said.
Since Johnny’s visit to Washington DC with the Texas Panhandle Honor Flight, he said he has not necessarily changed, but he has opened up about his experiences for the first time. Now, he thinks he is beginning to heal.
“You know, I was doing all right before I went on the Honor Flight. I’m doing better since I come back from the flight,” Johnny said. “Because it’s not the whole world against Johnny now. It’s not the whole world.”
Harley could not be more proud.
“Being brothers, I’ve never seen him open up and talk about anything related to the army. And once we got through this Honor Flight, he seems he found inner peace with himself and he’s happy,” said Harley.
More than 50 years after returning home, Johnny found people willing to thank him for his service.
“Somebody did care. In 2019. Year 2019 in Washington, DC, somebody actually come up and said, welcome home,” said Johnny.
Johnny also got a welcome home at Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport. They were welcomed home by a large crowd upon returning from Washington, D.C. for the Honor Flight.