Kirk Bennet Vietnam Seabee story

Texas (KWTX) One Central Texas veteran was inspired by the John Wayne film The Fighting Seabees to join the Naval construction force himself.

Kirk Bennett entered the Navy reserves in 1966 and eventually did become a member of the Seabees.

But almost as soon as he finished mechanic school he was headed to Vietnam, and he never could have anticipated the things he would experience.

"It didn't really dawn on me until we got there that it was actually a dangerous place to be," he said.

He arrived in December 1967 and worked at a mechanic shop for his main battalion, but volunteered to serve at another base.

"Seabees maintained the base, all the equipment for the fleet that was there," he told us, "we were three mile from the DMZ."

And near the DMZ, demilitarized zone, they were constant targets for attack.

"Every night, I had a night crew and we had snipers shooting at us, of course, but we also dealt with the NVA, I should say the Marines dealt with them more than we did, they were our guardian angels," Bennett said.

And armed Seabees also fought from the bunkers, but he remembers one night when boats headed out seaside to escape artillery fire got hit before they could make it..

"Crews got caught out in the open and there was quite a few injuries and KIAs," Bennett said.

He tried to save a man but it was too late.

"I got him up and carried him to the helicopter," he said, "the gunner said put him down he's gone, find me someone still breathing. "

But in Vietnam, Bennett came to the rescue of many including a helicopter crash survivor and seamen trapped in a ship during a fire.

Bennett was never injured although he came close.

While no wounds were visible he was exposed to Agent Orange and has suffered a lifetime of health problems.

And now he is currently battling cancer for a second time.

For other veterans, PTSD and traumatic brain injury have lasting effects.

"It looks like we're alright but there's issues we deal with," Bennett told us.

But looking back, despite the sacrifices, Bennett says there's nothing he would do differently.

Coming from a long line of military relatives Bennett was proud to serve the country he loves.

Bennett said, "I was brought up to respect not only the military but our country and what we do."

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