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About Don Bendell

About Don Bendell


In the publishing world, the martial arts, politics, and entertainment so many have been caught embellishing their resumes, which makes Don Bendell’s biography so unique. It is totally true and verifiable, and reads like one of the many exciting novels or screenplays he has written.


Starting out his adult life in the US Army as a private at 19, Don graduated from Infantry Officers Candidate School an Infantry Second Lieutenant, graduated Jump School, trained heavily for a year and earned his Green Beret, and served on a 12-man A-Team in South Vietnam at Dak Pek starting in May, 1968. The young officer, now a first lieutenant; lived with, trained, and fought with the aboriginal primitive nomadic Jeh Montagnard tribe in the mountainous Central Highlands region along the border of Laos. He also worked in the CIA’s Top Secret Phoenix Program. Being medically evacuated in 1969, Don served in 3 other Special Forces Groups at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, leaving the army as a Captain at the age of 23 in 1970. A four-time best-selling author and Pulitzer Prize nominee, Don Bendell has penned 30 books with over 3,000,000 copies in print worldwide, as well as a motion picture and television pilot. Retiring after well over a half-century in the martial arts, Don is not only a Grandmaster Instructor in 5 martial arts, he is a 1995 inductee into the International Karate & Kickboxing Hall of Fame. He raised the money for and wrote, produced, directed, and co-starred in the low budget action-adventure feature film The Instructor, which was sold and shown in 164 countries. Internationally famous as a cowboy, Don has had some national exposure tracking missing people in the mountains and desert on his horse, and is listed as one of the top 25 most famous cowboys of all time by Wall Street and by  He has been interviewed by Fox News anchors Martha MacCallum and Shannon Bream and featured in many newspapers and magazines such as Black Belt, American Cowboy, Soldier of Fortune, the American Spectator, Secrets of the Masters, Bowhunter, the Washington Times, the Ohio Magazine, the Beacon Journal, Denver Post, the Deseret News, Playboy, Publishers Weekly, and weekly Variety. Don is now a VA-rated 100% disabled Vietnam veteran, and one of his two youngest sons, who both followed in his footsteps as martial arts masters and Green Berets, is also a 100% disabled Special Forces combat veteran as well. Not surprisingly, in 2011, Don earned a Masters Degree in Leadership from the Ken Blanchard College of Business, Grand Canyon University. He is as well a sought-after public speaker and humorist.  This man was a featured guest speaker at the largest Vietnam veteran’s convention in the nation in Indiana, spoke to the combined officer’s wives clubs of Camp LaJeune, Cherry Point, and New River Marine bases, was Emcee of two of candidate Donald J. Trump’s largest rallies in Colorado in 2016, and has been interviewed many times and the subject of stories on many local NBC, CBS, ABC, and FOX TV stations as well as many national radio stations.   



Don Bendell In More Detail



A 10th degree black belt Grandmaster, Soke, (Head of Style) in 2 martial arts (Shita Jujitsu & Shita Judo), a 7th degree black belt Grandmaster in 2 other martial arts (Song Moo Kwan Tae Kwon Do & Freestyle Karate), and a black sash instructor in Muay Thai, as well, and 1996 inductee into the Martial Arts Museum of America, Grandmaster Bendell retired from teaching after the death of his late wife Shirley  in February, 2014.  Don and the late Master Shirley Bendell are the only couple in history to both be inducted into the International Karate and Kickboxing Hall of Fame. Don was inducted in 1995 and Shirley in 2009. In the early 1970s, Don taught a combination of Tae Kwon Do, Kickboxing, and Jujitsu at the Fort Bragg (NC) Boxing Club twice per week to members of Special Forces and the 82nd Airborne. He also helped then Commanding General Hank Emmerson set up the US Army's "Fit to Fight" program. He also owned a karate school, The Karate Institute, outside of Fayetteville, NC with branches at Fort Bragg and in Pinehurst, NC. In 1998, 1999, and 2000, he hosted a very popular NASKA, CKA, and IKA rated tournament called Don Bendell’s Halloween Classic and trained quite a few state, national, and world champions.

For a number of years, Don served on the National Advisory Board of the American Indian Registry for the Performing Arts along with such notables as Burt Reynolds, Wayne Newton, Will Sampson, Dennis Weaver, and Jonathan Winters. In 2007, Don was highly-honored in a speech by US Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Nicholson along with friend NFL Hall of Fame quarterback and Denver Broncos President John Elway. Secretary Nicholson’s speech was broadcast to all VA facilities worldwide. He stated in his speech that Don was the ideal example of what a disabled veteran could do with a good diet and healthy lifestyle, pointing out that at that time, Don was 60 years old and doing 1,000 pushups at a time, 1,000 crunches per day, and more after surviving illnesses and being wounded, taking on alcoholism in 1969 and not having a drink since, and quitting smoking 4 packs per day in 1983.  Despite eating and exercising well, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, Don developed Ischemic heart disease and  Type II diabetes "due to excessive exposure to Agent Orange."  He is rated by VA as a 100% disabled Vietnam veteran. Like his son Josh, Don’s back has been broken in four places at four different times.

Don has worked extensively with Vietnamese Montagnard refugees and on Montagnard issues and has also been listed in Marquis' WHO'S WHO IN AMERICA and WHO'S WHO IN ENTERTAINMENT ever since 1992. From December of 2001-2003, he was President of the Rocky Mountain Chapter (Chap. 4/24) of the Special Forces Ass'n where he is a Decader Life member(#DL-8421), a Life member of the Special Operations Ass'n (#1920-GL), Life member of VFW, Life member of DAV, member of the American Legion, a former member of the International Platform Ass'n, and is a member of the Western Writers of America, where he was nominated for 4 prestigious SPUR Awards for 4 of his 10 popular western Colt novels. He is also a member of the Military Writers Society of America. Bendell was honored in 2011 for “Excellence in Western Literature” by the ReadWest Foundation. He was also nominated by the publisher in 2011 for the prestigious Pultizer Prize for his non-fiction memoir Tracks of Hope . . A Modern Day Western (GoldMInds Publishing, LLC, Nashville: 2011). Don was appointed by former Colorado Governor Bill Owens to the Colorado Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness. Don was then reappointed twice by his successor former Governor Bill Ritter, and his successor Governor John Hickenlooper, and served until 2012. Don also testified for the Colorado Legislature on a bill about Search and Rescue and another bill Don had first suggested to Representative Tom Massey about economic and other incentives to attract film and TV producers to Colorado. Both bills were passed and made into state law. In 2004, Oklahoma Governor (then-Lieutenant Governor) Mary Fallin and State Representative Thad Balkman made Don an "Honorary Oklahoman." In 2018, Don ran unsuccessfully for the Colorado House of Representatives, HD 47 in southern Colorado.  Bo Derek was the first notable person to publicly endorse Don.

Bendell has traveled the country giving speeches, especially for conservative groups.. Don was also previously on the National Board of Directors of Combat Veterans for Congress. In November of 2016, 3 days before the Presidential election, Don was personally requested by then-republican Presidential nominee Donald J. Trump to emcee and host soon-to-be President Trump’s biggest rally at the Denver at the National Western  Stock Center. Three weeks prior to that, Don emceed another Trump rally in Denver introducing Eric Trump and other dignitaries at the Centennial Institute, Colorado Christian University.

Don has a Master of Science in Leadership degree from Grand Canyon University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Business from Colorado Christian University. He has also been a licensed Colorado big-game guide and outfitter, bodyguard, executive sales rep, TV Talk show host, and radio disc jockey. A former widower, Don is the father of 6 grown children and grandfather of 14, and previously lost two grand-daughters, as well. On September 15, 2017, he married Dr. Janet Bendell, who is a social psychologist, also a former Army captain and Vietnam-era veteran, who received her doctorate from UMASS and also attended Harvard and Rutgers. Don and Janet wrote a self-help motivational memoir entitled Real Men are Cowboys & Women Love Them, which was published by Strongheart Entertainment Corporation and Ingram Books in large paperback and e-book. Released on Amazon and Kindle in March, 2020, the book hit three Amazon best-seller lists in its first week, including number six on “Amazon’s Hottest New Sellers,” and then the Covid 19 pandemic hit and killed book signings and sales.  The first two-thirds of the non-fiction book, are sometimes dramatic, even heartbreaking,   sometimes humorous, and most often action-packed true stories from Don's very colorful, adventure-filled life. The final third of the book is Janet's clinical breakdown of the 5 types of men and what makes some men appealing to women, while others turn women off. 

 For years, Don rode a big pinto National Showhorse named Eagle, and now rides a gaited chocolate Palomino with flaxen mane and tail Rocky Mountain Horse named Jubilee. Don and Janet own the Strongheart Ranch south of Florence, Colorado (named for his number one best-selling western). Don's custom-built office, where he writes, has tongue-in-groove blonde aspen walls and cathedral ceilings and many windows with beautiful mountain views.  It is adorned with western and military art, including signed and numbered prints from close friend Anita LaCava Swift, John Wayne's oldest grandchild. Actually, Don was her official escort for a Special Forces convention in SC in 2014. It also has signed art work from friends such as artist/film-TV star Buck Taylor (Tombstone, Gunsmoke)  and artist Dave Merrick.

He wrote many westerns for Berkley/Penguin-Random House Group-USA, has authored military thriller novels for Berkley/Penguin-Random House, and authored a non-fiction book about his tracking experiences, TRACKS OF HOPE a Modern Day Western, published in hardcover and eBook from Goldminds Publishing, LLC, who nominated Don's book for the Pulitzer Prize. Many of his westerns and non-fiction books have been re-released in e-book format by In the early nineties, Don also created and wrote the first six books of the popular science fiction “Tracker” series under the pen name Ron Stillman for Diamond-Harvest Books (Berkley). Don's long-time friend and editor at Penguin-Random House, Tom Colgan, Executive Vice President of Editorial, was also Tom Clancy's editor for over a quarter century and editor for many NYT best-selling authors such as Ed McBain, Clive Cussler, W.E.B. Griffin, and Jack Higgins.

Don also writes screenplays and wrote, produced, directed, and co-starred in the successful low budget action/adventure feature film, The Instructor, (Shapiro Entertainment, Corp./Vestron, Hollywood, 1983) which was shown and sold in 164 countries worldwide. There is a special "Thank you" to Don in the tail credits of the Walt Disney feature film Operation Dumbo Drop starring Danny Glover, Ray Liotta, and Denis Leary. Don also executive produced, wrote, and starred in a one-hour TV pilot entitled Cowboy with guest stars Buck Taylor and Rex Allen, Jr.  Don left the motion picture business after the unexpected death of his close friend and partner Dar Robinson, who the film Lethal Weapon was dedicated to. Dar was considered "the greatest stuntman in the world," and he and Don were planning to make a series of action-adventure films together when Dar was tragically accidentally killed doing stunts on a Dino Delaurentis film. In recent years, Don decided to return to the motion picture business he loves so much, and is working on a number of projects now. His goal is to direct film again, especially based on his traditional historic westerns. To that end, Don acquired all the rights to his books except for the Tracker series, so he can make film, ancillary, and TV deals on them.

Don was born on Elvis Presley's birthday January 8, 1947 in City Hospital, Akron, Ohio and grew up in Akron attending both Coventry High School and Tallmadge High School, where he graduated in 1966.  He has longtime friendships with several internationally famous major celebrities, such as Bo Derek, John Elway, Shannon Bream, the late billionaire H. Ross Perot, a number of Medal of Honor recipients, a number of world-famous martial arts legends, the stunt great the late-Dar Robinson, and he had a longtime friendship for four decades with the late- World Heavyweight Champion Muhammad Ali who Don also did business with.


Don and Janet host a You Tube Channel called The Cowboy & The Counselor which features several interviews, Don telling some jokes, plus for free, the entire motion picture The Instructor and Don’s TV pilot Cowboy.  and they have a website for their new book:

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