|Ed Benson is no stranger to veterans; he is one. Air Force veteran Benson spent 12 months from May 1968 to May 1969 in Vietnam working air traffic control for friendly forces. His unit deconflicted the airspace for them. “I received an all-expense paid trip to the jungles of Vietnam,” he said dryly.
While the entire peninsula of Vietnam was all a combat zone, Benson was fortunate to be able to return to a building at the end of each day to sleep. At 6:00 p.m. each night, the site became a free fire zone, which meant that if something was moving and perceived to be a problem, you could shoot it, making night patrol that much more dangerous.
Benson’s unit’s base was at a single strip airfield with a beacon that was illuminated 24/7. “The light could be seen from the weeds,” he said. About three times each week, for the duration of his tour, the Viet Cong aimed for the beacon.
Benson’s military career ended in 1989 and he became a government contractor and moved to New Mexico. Not long after he relocated to Colorado Springs where he became involved with Habitat for Humanity, a group he still volunteers with.
It was with Habitat for Humanity that Benson polished his handyman skills, acquired when he was just a teen in high school taking an agricultural shop class. “We weren’t farmers, but I learned a lot from the class,” he said.
He moved to Fauquier County in 2007 and ran across an ad for Hero’s Bridge looking for volunteers to sit with aging veterans. This put the organization on Benson’s radar.
Today, Hero’s Bridge turns to Ed Benson when one of our volunteers needs something built, whether it is a laundry pole or a wheelchair ramp, Benson is happy to look at the site and determine how to meet the veteran’s need.
When not volunteering with Hero’s Bridge, Benson serves the community in other ways. He is part of a disaster response team bringing relief to hurricane, tornado, and flood victims; he works at the ReStore; he disappears for a week each year to do work on hiking trails for the American Hiking Society; and with his wife Sharon, he volunteers with the Middleburg Humane Society.
About his volunteer work, he says “In some cases you can disassociate from what’s happening around you to get the work done. In other cases you can’t and have to dig a little deeper to keep going.”
We are grateful that Benson has chosen Hero’s Bridge to be on of the organization used to serve his community.