MSG Roy Benavidez, MOH Recipient, Green Beret Legend
Master Sergeant Roy Benavidez was a Green Beret in the 5th Special Forces Group who received the Medal Of Honor for his actions on May 2, 1968 in Vietnam. Even though critically wounded at least 37 times, he still was able to save the lives of 8 men in what has been described as a “daring rescue” near Loc Ninh.
MSG Raul Perez “Roy ” Benavidez
When President Ronald Reagan awarded the Medal Of Honor to Roy Benavidez, he turned to the press and said, “If the story of his heroism were a movie script, you would not believe it.” And that is likely an understatement.
Benavidez was the son of a Mexican-American farmer and Yaqui Indian mother. His father died when he was around 3, and his mother five years later – both of died of Tuberculosis. His uncle took him in, and raised him in El Campo, Texas.
By age 15, Roy had enough of trying to keep up with school work while being in the fields for 4 months out of the year. That, and being called names like “dumb Mexican” led to his decision to work full time.
He later joined the Texas National Guard, and after three years he went active duty in the Army. He deployed to the Korean War. He was General Westmoreland’s driver. He finally earned the silver wings of a Paratrooper, and reported to the 82nd Airborne.
In 1964 he deployed to Vietnam. While assisting in the training of Vietnamese troops on a patrol, he stepped on a land mine and was evacuated to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.
You’d think his career would have stopped at that point, since all the doctors said he’d never walk again. They didn’t know Roy Benavidez.
He pursuaded the doctor to let him have more time before they discharged him. He consistently worked on his strength, and was finally not discharged, but given an Administrative job.
But Benavidez wanted to go back to Vietnam, so he worked out, built his strength, and applied to Special Forces. Four years after he was nearly medically discharged, he was on his second tour of duty in Loc Ninh Province, this time as a Special Forces NCO.
After hearing of a 12 man patrol that came under fire from the enemy, Benavidez ran to meet the helicopters that were returning.
Raul Felix wrote,
“Without time to go get his rifle, Benavidez boarded a different returning helicopter armed only with his knife and a medical bag — he knew there would be weapons on the ground to use once he got there. All the knowledge he had accrued throughout his rough life and challenging military career kicked in. He descended into the pits of hell for six hours.
The enemy fire was so furious that his helicopter had to fly in a zig-zag pattern while unleashing a stream of American fury on the Viet Cong — or “Charlie,” as soldiers commonly referred to them. In order to prevent disorientation when he touched down, Benavidez told the pilot to fly out in the direction of the team. As he was dashing toward them, a bullet hit him in the right leg, though he thought it was the prickling of a thorn.
He came to Staff Sergeant Lloyd “Frenchy” Mousseau, who was firing back at the enemy despite having one of his eyes hanging from the socket and wounds to the stomach. A couple of the tribesmen had been killed, and everyone on the team had been wounded in one way or another. Benavidez dragged the injured soldiers into a defensive position and applied medical aid.
He was still searching for Wright when he saw Specialist 4 Brian O’Conner a few dozen yards away with the tribesman’s interpreter and motioned him over. A hail of bullets flew all around, and they were forced to hit the ground and low crawl. Benavidez popped a smoke grenade to signal an extraction point to the helicopter. As it hovered overhead, the chopper let loose on the enemy with a heavy barrage of machine gun fire.
Benavidez carried those too injured to walk to the HLZ while laying down suppressive fire. He knew he couldn’t leave Wright behind, so he ran back into the rampant jungle and found his dead body. As Benavidez dragged Wright’s body toward the helicopter, he was shot in the back. Almost simultaneously, a hand grenade exploded, peppering him with shrapnel and knocking him out.
Benavidez awoke to a greater hell. Unable to carry Wright, he was forced to leave his buddy behind. He made his way to the helicopter only to see the smoldering inferno of the wreckage. The pilot of the helicopter, Warrant Officer Larry McKibbens, had been shot and killed. Fortunately, the other passengers survived.
Knowing that the smoke would attract the enemy, Benavidez grabbed a rifle and shot up the communications systems so they couldn’t get access to the military radio frequencies. He then ordered everyone to move in the opposite direction to hide in the jungle and set up a defensive perimeter. They had evacuated just in time — mortars zeroed in on the smoke and started raining down on the crash site. From their new position, Benavidez directed several deadly air strikes against the swarm of Viet Cong attacking them.
Another chopper came in and tried to extract them, but they were shot down, too. The crew survived and joined the rest of the team in their defensive position. One last attempt was made by a new helicopter, manned by a crew of four officers.
“You can either crawl, walk, or drag yourself, but this is the last bird out of here,” Benavidez yelled to his men. He was carrying Mousseau when a North Vietnamese soldier came at him with a bayonet and slashed his arm open. Benavidez took a jaw-breaking hit with the butt of a rifle before reaching down, unsheathing his knife, and stabbing the soldier to death. He then shot two more enemy soldiers who were charging the aircraft.
He was the last one off the battlefield; once aboard the helicopter, his intestines spilled out and he passed out.
He awoke to the distinct zipping of a body bag — he was thought dead. Blood had crusted his eyes shut, he was unable to move his jaw, and he couldn’t move his limbs from all his injuries.”
Thirty-seven wounds. MSG Roy Benavidez spit in the face of the doctor who stated there was nothing that could be done for him. Good shot. The doctor corrected himself, and said, “I think he’s going to make it.”
And make it he did. Over his life he was awarded 5 Purple Hearts, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, and the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor, and in 1981, President Reagan awarded him the Medal Of Honor. He dedicated the rest of his life to helping disabled veterans, and passed away on November 29, 1998.
“The real heroes are the ones who gave their lives for this country. The real heroes are our wives and mothers. The real heroes are the ones who are disabled in those VA hospitals. The real heroes are our future leaders who are staying in school and saying no to drugs.” Roy Benavidez
Here is the full story as told by President Reagan from his citation:
Featured photo: Reagan awards MSG Benavidez the Medal of Honor via coffeeordie.com