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Retired Naval officer calls Brookhaven home

A Lincoln County native has come home after a long career in the military.

Ben Johnson grew up near Brookhaven out at East Lincoln.

“I grew up in the Harmony community,” Johnson said.

He enlisted in the United States Navy in 1994, then went to the United States Naval Academy and was commissioned a Naval officer in 1999.

Many of his family members have served in the Armed Forces, so it wasn’t a foreign concept for him to enlist.

“My father served in Vietnam and my grandfather was in WWII,” Johnson said. “My cousin David Hedgepeth served in the Navy and my cousin Jeremy Ables is currently serving in the Navy. Many other cousins along the way have served in the National Guard or in the Army or Marine Corps. I’ve got lots of family that served.”

Johnson served the U.S. in the Armed Forces for 24 years. He retired in the summer of 2018.

“It was an adventure, to be honest,” Johnson said. “It was overall good, but there were definitely bad times.”

Johnson has traveled to 26 countries during his time in the military, including Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen.

“The first 15 years focused on the Middle East and the last five focused on the Pacific,” Johnson said. “I spent about 40 months working with Army Special Forces and Navy SEALs in the Middle East. It was by far the most rewarding tour, although it wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows.”

Johnson retired to Brookhaven because of his family in the area.

“I’ve been all over the place,” Johnson said. “But there’s no better place than home.”

Johnson still travels the country for work, but he always comes home.

“Being back has been fantastic,” Johnson said. “Lots of freedoms and I enjoy being outdoors. It’s home.”

Johnson said many people serve for different reasons, whether it is for duty or education. For many, he included, served because of a love for their country and their fellow man.

“They wouldn’t just put their lives on the line if they didn’t have that,” Johnson said.

Johnson said there are three things you need to know to be successful — you need to know yourself, your job and the people around you.

“Working in the military gives you a better sense of self,” Johnson said. “Veterans do what they do of out of love. Love of family, love of country, that’s what it’s all about.”

Johnson has been a member of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter for two years. Upon joining, he became a life member.

“It is a place where you share something,” Johnson said. “You may share some experiences. You don’t even have to talk about them.”

Johnson said the sense of community is an important part of the VFW.

“It’s a group of people of all backgrounds that have a common theme — no matter what, they love their country,” Johnson said. “It’s a great avenue to help other veterans. To help each other through any struggles and celebrate things in life.”

Johnson, 45, is single with four children.

 

Story by Gracie Byrne