Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Jonathon ‘Jack-Jack’ Benjamin Is Helping To Change Our…

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Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Jonathon ‘Jack-Jack’ Benjamin Is Helping To Change Our World

I wish that someone told me sooner or set me on this path sooner than I started because I could have been better positioned to write and put out a story that could inspire social change.

As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jack-Jack.

Jonathon Benjamin is an author, actor, playwright and veteran of the US Air Force. After getting injured in service and medically retiring, he struggled with finding a new normal for his life before finding a therapeutic catharsis in his writing. He has had his plays produced by the John F Kennedy Center and his award-winning debut memoir is now on sale at Amazon.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

My childhood… was a cloaked and shady figure, disguised as what I thought, at the time, was a healthy and loving family. I grew up the son of an Army veteran. I was raised on Fort Lewis, Washington and even joined the Air Force after a stint at community college. The men in my genealogy have all been veterans; I was the first to break tradition and join outside of the Army, though.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?

The Bible. I am by no stretch of the imagination a religious fanatic. I just look back on my childhood and the stories and lessons of the Bible taught me how to live and how to survive the abuse I endured at home. Specifically, I remember back to Fort Foote Baptist Church in Fort Washington, Maryland a guest preacher came to our church and gave a sermon on the book of Luke:

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

This part of the story was pivotal in that it gave me hope and inspired me to strengthen my own spirit so that when I come out on the other side of being sifted, I could turn back and help others come through their trials as I did, myself. This is especially evident in my injury, recovery and advocacy for the aid and support of other wounded veterans.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I don’t believe in mistakes. I think that there are simply lessons and opportunities to learn in life when things don’t go as planned.

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

The book that I have written tells the story of one veteran recovering and trying to find a new normal in life after his sacrifice became reality. I never will forget the other veterans I worked alongside trying to make sense of our injuries and coming to realize that the life we’d envisioned for ourselves was changed forever. I know that my story is an anomaly. I am a small percentage of an even smaller demographic of veterans that has made it, relatively, successfully back to some semblance of a life close to what I had imagined. By no means am I the one and only example, nor am I this great, wounded veteran poster child. I just know that not everyone with injuries as severe as mine had the opportunity or the ability to advocate for themselves the way that I did. I aim to change that. I aim to open the eyes of the civilian and military sectors to the plight of the wounded veteran. The statistic is heartbreakingly true and still holds today that over 23 veterans take their lives every day. That number is more than the casualties of veterans in both the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns, combined.

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

The most interesting story in the book Is the story that isn’t written. In the book, I bring up the first casualty I experienced, which didn’t actually happen while I was in service. One of the veterans whom I recovered with and worked alongside in the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program, “Gus,” had taken his life. My heart still breaks for his family and the families of all the 23 veterans who find themselves in the path of mind that Gus did. I say his story is the most interesting because, despite everything that I have done and accomplished, what could he have done? If he was supported and cared for by his government and the VA healthcare system like he should have been, then what could he have been, created, written or advocated for?

What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

The moment was in March of 2017. I was in undergraduate studies as a theatre major at the George Washington University. I was approached by one of the faculty members about my senior thesis project proposal, which was due that week. Since that was the first I’d heard of the project, I immediately buckled down and spent somewhere around 12 hours at the university library researching plays and playwrights. It was in the drowsy, stupor of exhausted fugue that I came to the “aha” that maybe I could write a play. I have quite a story to tell.

Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

Gus. It is his memory and the affect he’s had on my life that has driven my aim at why I wrote this book. It’s not just about my story. It’s about the 23 Gus’ a day that we lose in America.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

  1. Contact your representatives to act on the failure of the VA healthcare system to address the rampant suicide epidemic in the veteran community.
  2. Support your local veteran service organization (VSO) — Disabled American Veterans, Wounded Warrior Project, or the American Legion to name a few.
  3. If you’re a Veteran in crisis or concerned about one, connect with our caring, qualified Veterans Crisis Line responders for confidential help. Many of them are Veterans themselves. This service is private, free, and available 24/7. To connect with a Veterans Crisis Line responder anytime day or night: Call 988, then select 1.

Or Text 838255 to start a confidential chat. If you have hearing loss, call TTY: 800–799–4889.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership is a spirit of willingness to stand out and stand for something greater than oneself for the purpose of the benefit of others.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why?

  1. I wish that someone told me sooner or set me on this path sooner than I started because I could have been better positioned to write and put out a story that could inspire social change.
  2. I wish someone told me that publishing a book costs so much — editors, formatters, designers, print costs, etc.
  3. I wish someone told me how vulnerable writing this story for others to hear, judge and possibly act on or not would make me feel. I think that my advisor kind of positioned me for that sense of vulnerability by letting me test my story on college students.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite life lesson quote comes from my earlier recollection of the scripture verse that says you will be tested and tried and when, not “if,” but when you come out on the other side, it will be your duty and obligation to turn back and strengthen those who are in the midst of their own storms an trials.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Most of the people I want to do this with are passed (Maya Angelou, August Wilson, Cecily Tyson, etc.), but if I had to choose someone, it would be Adam Drive (actor). Driver is a wounded veteran, like myself. He also has dabbled in the theatre and film. It would be great to pick his brain and get his perspective on my book and its themes.

How can our readers further follow your work online?




Author page:

Book page:

New Play Exchange

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Jonathon ‘Jack-Jack’ Benjamin Is Helping To Change Our… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.