By Imani D. Asukile
Elijah John “Chief” Bennett was born on March 8, 1942, in Savannah, Georgia the oldest of Elijah and Edna Mae Bennett’s 8 children. His family moved to Brooksville during his pre-school years. He graduated from Moton High School in 1961, where he participated in football and basketball. He was drafted into the United States Army at age 25 in 1967 and served one year, 11 months, and 29 days. He served a tour of duty in Vietnam and earned the following medals. Vietnam Service, 2 Bronze Stars, National Defense Service, Republic of Vietnam Campaign, Combat Infantryman Badge, Marksman (M-16), Army Commendation, Sharp Shooter (M-16), Expert (60)mm and Air Medal. After his Vietnam tour, he was honorably discharged. PFC Bennett never spoke of his war experiences, and he was barely a shell of the person he was before he entered the war.
He died in the James Haley Veteran Hospital in Tampa after a long battle with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder-related alcoholism, complications due to Agent Orange, and other illnesses on March 7, 2007, one day before his 65th birthday. He was married to Joann Bennett, and they were parents of three children: Renee Knight, Michael Bennett, and Frederick Bennett. Imani Asukile is his brother, the youngest and sole survivor of the 8-person sibling group.