TALES OF HONOR: MsSGT ROY BENAVIDEZ
“If the story of his heroism were a movie script, you would not believe it”. – Ronald Reagan
Master Sargent Roy Benavidez grew up in Texas and started his career in the Texas National Guard in 1952. He wanted to stand tall as an American fighting man in the Korean War.
In 1955 he became one of the roughest, toughest, meanest snake eaters (what soldier types call special forces) known to walk this earth. He was SOG, or a member of the Studies and Observations Group. A highly classified organization responsible for practicing unconventional warfare during the Vietnam war.
The man knew his business and in the 1960’s business was good for a man with his … particular set of skills.
Now here is something that I want to make clear, and I apologize that I am distracting from the story a little bit. You do not ‘win’ the Medal of Honor, you receive it. It is a sign of the service you provided your country and to the men and women at your side. Now back to what you all came here to read: a war story about a true American hero!
Let’s talk about strength for a minute. MSgt Benavidez stepped on a landmine in 1965 while serving as an adviser to friendly Vietnamese troops. First, the very fact that he survived this was nothing short of a miracle. Secondly, the fact that this story doesn’t end here chalked up two miracles for our hero before we even get to the one you came here to read about. Now you have the background, lets get to the meat of it!
This American hero woke up in the Philippines paralyzed from the waste down. Watching him give his own accounting of events, I was astonished at how matter of fact he was about…well, being blown up. A true soldier. He speaks about pain and fear that most can’t even begin to fathom as if he is debriefing his commander at the end of any other day.
So what did he do next? Well, he decided to make himself walk. Through pure strength of will he spent his night crawling on the floor to strengthen his body and pulling himself up the walls and pushing with the legs the doctors said he could never use again. As his fellow warriors cheered him on he crawled and then walked his way back in to special forces.
On May 2, 1968, after returning to active service in Vietnam, a 12 man Special Forces patrol came under attack by more than 1000 North Vietnamese soldiers. Being that this man has already cheated paralysis, you won’t be surprised to hear that he decided to leap in to the fight from a helicopter with nothing but a knife, a medical kit, and a pair of enormous…well you know. The full MoH citation can be found here, but one of the most striking parts is that he:
…distinguished himself by a series of daring and extremely valorous actions… and because of his gallant choice to join voluntarily aid his comrades who were in critical straits, to expose himself constantly to withering enemy fire, and his refusal to be stopped despite numerous severe wounds, saved the lives of at least eight men.
What came next is a better ending than the most creative of action movies. MSgt Benavidez was evacuated from the battlefield, presumed dead, and placed in a body bag. Made sense since he had suffered from 37 separate bullet, bayonet, and shrapnel wounds.
A doctor was called and examined him. The doctor found no sign of life and was zipping the body bag over MSgt Benavidez’s face when the Sargent was able to spit. He was rushed to an Army hospital for surgery and began his recovery.
He received a Distinguished Service Cross, 4 Purple Hearts, and I imagine free beers for life. He served out the rest of his career in the military and retired where his career began, deep in the heart of Texas.
As the years went on, the records of his actions in Vietnam became more openly available and his case was looked at for an upgrade to the Medal of Honor. In 1981 President Ronald Reagan presented the Medal of Honor to one of it’s most deserving recipients and a true American hero, MSgt Roy Benavidez.