Badass Fighter Pilot to Veteran Owned Business

Badass Fighter Pilot to Veteran Owned Business

Written by: Kendra Bennett, November 11, 2021

 Honey Bunchies CEO Kendra Bennett

To say I’m extremely proud of my dad is a gross understatement.  Is he a badass?  Yes.  Yes, he is.  Could I have found a better word to use?  Perhaps.  But badass really fits the bill.  My dad was a McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom Fighter Pilot in Vietnam.  He flew an absolute beast.  Now, fast forward five decades, and my dad leads a veteran owned business alongside his wife, daughter, and son, who is also a badass veteran (you rock, bro).  I suppose you could say the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree in my family, as both of my grandfathers were also Air Force veterans.

F-4 Fighter Pilot

My dad was a Captain in the United States Air Force and flew 144 missions in Vietnam, April 1970 - April 1971.  He ejected from his plane on two occasions – both ejections were at tree top level or lower.  It is an absolute miracle my dad survived.  When he returned to the States from Vietnam, he became an instructor pilot teaching the next generation of badass Air Force pilots.  Woot-woot, Dad!  Amazingly, when he returned home from his tour, his trusty ejection seat came along, too.  Folks can now see Dad’s ejection seat on display next to an F-4 Phantom at Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum in Denver, CO.  It’s crazy looking at that seat, knowing what it went through and that it saved my dad’s life.

Ed Payne the Founder of Honey Bunchies
Honey Bunchies Founder Ed Payne on a F-4 Phantom Fighter Jet

Military’s Unmatched Skills

Military truly helped mold my dad into the amazing human being he is today.  As every veteran knows, serving in the military involves intense mental and physical training.  It requires homing in on organizational skills, punctuality, work ethic, critical thinking, and discipline.   There is a strong sense of loyalty and comradery while serving a cause much larger than any one person.   The skills developed in the military are some of the best, bar none.

The Common Aftermath:  PTSD

While there are countless benefits to being a servicemember of the US Military, there is often great sacrifice as well.  Every veteran’s story is different, important, and significant in its own way.  My dad battles an ever lingering, and at times debilitating, form of PTSD.  He has endured nightmares every single night since Vietnam and his sleep is never as restful as it should be.  He is easily startled causing him to jump a mile high, even in his own home.  Dad’s PTSD seemed to manifest itself into physical symptoms as he got older.  He has a very difficult time breathing, which affects, well, everything.  It’s hard to talk, walk and to be as active as he once was just a few years ago.  My dad is very outgoing and social, so as you can imagine, it is awful for him to not get out into the world.  Unfortunately, simply leaving the house is hard, no less trying to carry a conversation with someone.  The lack of services available to help veterans is frustrating and infuriating to say the least.  And unfortunately, while the VA does offer some help, they are grossly under resourced.

My Hero

If you were to ask me to describe my dad, I would say he is absolutely brilliant, a renaissance man.  He is creative, hard-working, persistent, optimistic, funny, caring and loves his family with all his heart.  Despite his battle with PTSD, and before the symptoms progressed physically, my dad launched several veteran owned businesses over the years.  His most recent veteran owned business is Honey Bunchie, LLC, makers of dad’s amazing recipe, Honey Bunchies Gourmet Honey Bars.  Honey Bunchie is a family business, and we all work together day in and day out - dad, mom, my brother, and me.  As with many veteran owned businesses, the skills my dad, and brother, acquired in the military are invaluable in running a successful operation.  

Dad paved the way, creating an incredible company we can all feel proud to represent.  I am beyond grateful for all that he has sacrificed, for all his accomplishments and for all the love he has for his family.  Dad, you were not only a badass fighter pilot, but dare I say, you are also a badass veteran business owner.  And to all US veterans and active military members, know that you have something special, an intangible strength, and know that you are sincerely appreciated.

Ed and his wife, the CEO of Honey Bunchies
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