Roy P. Benavidez, A Vietnam War Hero and Legend
My father is Roy P. Benavidez, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, US Army.
In 1965 he was sent to South Vietnam as an advisor to an ARVN infantry regiment. He stepped on a land mine during a patrol and was evacuated to the United States, where doctors at Fort Sam Houston concluded he would never walk again and began preparing his medical discharge papers. As was noted in his 1981 MOH acceptance speech, stung by the diagnosis, as well as flag burnings and media criticism of the US military presence in Vietnam he saw on TV, he began an unsanctioned nightly training ritual in an attempt to redevelop his ability to walk. Getting out of bed at night (against doctors orders), he would crawl using his elbows and chin to a wall near his bedside and (with the encouragement of his fellow patients), he would prop himself against the wall and attempt to lift himself unaided, starting by wiggling his toes, then his feet, and then eventually (after several months of excruciating practice that by his own admission often left him in tears) pushing himself up the wall with his ankles and legs. After over a year of hospitalization, he walked out of the hospital in July 1966, with his wife, Lala, by his side, determined to return to combat in Vietnam. Despite continuing pain from his wounds, he returned to South Vietnam in January 1968.
On May 2, 1968, a 12-man Special Forces patrol which included nine Montagnard tribesmen, was surrounded by a NVA infantry battalion of about 1,000 men. My father was attending a church service when he over heard the radio appeal for help. He voluntarily boarded a helicopter to respond. Armed only with a bowie knife and his medic bag, he jumped from the helicopter hoping to help the trapped patrol. He "distinguished himself by a series of daring and extremely valorous actions... and because of his gallant choice to join voluntarily 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." After 6 hours in hell, he was evacuated to the base camp, examined, and thought to be dead. As he was placed in a body bag among the other dead, he was suddenly recognized by a friend who called for help. A doctor came and examined him but believed he was dead. The doctor was about to zip up the body bag when my father managed to spit in his face, alerting the doctor that he was alive. My dad had a total of 37 separate bullet, bayonet, and shrapnel wounds from the six hour fight with the enemy battalion. He was evacuated once again to Brooke Army Medical Center, where he eventually recovered. He received the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism and four Purple Hearts.
In 1980, Brian O'Connor, the former radioman of my father's Special Forces team in Vietnam, provided a ten-page report of the encounter on May 2, 1968. O'Connor was one of the eight men that my father had saved, and had been severely wounded (my father believed he had been dead), and he was evacuated to the United States before his superiors could fully debrief him. O'Connor had been living in the Fiji Islands and was on holiday in Australia when he read a newspaper account of my father from an El Campo newspaper. The story had been picked up by the international press and reprinted in Australia. O'Connor immediately contacted my father and submitted his report, confirming the accounts provided by others, and serving as the necessary eyewitness. My father's Distinguished Service Cross accordingly was upgraded to the Medal of Honor.
On February 24, 1981, President Ronald Reagan presented my father with the Medal of Honor. During the reading of the citation, Reagan turned to the press and said, "If the story of his heroism were a movie script, you would not believe it."
My father passed away on Nov. 29, 1998, due to complications of diabetes However, prior to his death, he dedicated his life to motivating and educating our youth. He spoke to schools, businesses, and civic organizations about his struggles in life, and about his May 2nd mission. To this day, he continues to be an icon, especially among our military, but more importantly among our youth. He lived and died by the motto: Duty, Honor, Country.
My father is survived by his wife, Lala, and three children. He also has 8 grandchildren. He is honored regularly with accolades, honors, and awards. Among his honors are: 2 Texas schools named after him, a park in Colorado, 4 books (the lastest one, "Legend," by Eric Blehm, a GI Joe Action figure, a 14 million dollar logistics building in North Carolina, a Texas National Guard Armory, and a US Navy ship, christened the USNS Benavidez, just to name a few.
As the administrator of his facebook page: Roy P . Benavidez, "Tango Mike Mike," I'm always trying to keep it updated with stories and anecdotes about my father. He was, and continues to be, an amazing man, father, and hero!