The Ballad of Roy Benavidez

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Every so often, a giant evolves among mortal men. Being Independence Day, I thought it appropriate to celebrate someone exemplifying what freedom looks like by not only fighting for himself but for other people halfway around the world, risking life and limb in the process. Master Sgt. Roy Benavidez, Green Beret, fits this very description.

Born from poor sharecropper parents in rural Texas, Benavidez became perhaps the most famous Special Forces member in history from a very brave and courageous feat, bordering on super-human, over 56 years ago. Yet, those in the small community of Special Forces members, or those following such men by reading about them, know the name, Master Sgt. Roy Benavidez. He is legendary.

First Tour

During his first tour in Vietnam, Master Sgt. Benavidez stepped on a land mine, rendering him paralyzed from the waist down and declared by doctors to never walk again. They didn’t know Master Sgt. Roy Benavidez!

At night, he’d sneak out of bed, crawling on elbows and chin, dragging his body to the nearest wall. There, he would shimmy up and force himself to stand.

Once up, he’d wiggle his toes left and right. He did this every night for almost a year to the cheers of fellow wounded soldiers watching him. Benavidez wanted to go back to ‘Nam.

With medical discharge papers in hand, a doctor told him he was finished. He pleaded with the doctor until he relented and said, “Benavidez, you walk out of here, I’ll tear these papers up.”

Benavidez was transferred back to Ft. Bragg, North Carolina shortly after.

During his second Tour, at the age of 32, Master Sgt. Benavidez earned his Congressional Medal of Honor for performing one of the most heroic feats in military history on May 2, 1968.

Back at base camp, Benavidez was injured from an earlier mission but still monitored the camp radio. Like anyone who spent time communicating with a radio, he was quickly able to recognize stress or desperation by the pitch and crackling voices of those transmitting over the airwaves.

A small platoon was pinned down, surrounded by North Vietnamese Army soldiers and taking small arms fire. They pleaded for extraction. Ignoring his injuries, Master Sgt. Benavidez told the pilot, Larry McGibben, he was going with him. Armed with only his knife and medical bag, Master Sgt. Benavidez jumped into the helicopter.

“They raced over treetops, across the border, and into the firefight. McGibben was zigzagging the chopper,” Benavidez described, “making every attempt to dodge bullets.”

Master Sgt. Benavidez’s seat jerked and lurched as the chopper dashed through the bullet-filled sky. “We flew into the firefight like a runaway rollercoaster,” he testified.

The landing zone was “hot” with gunfire, forcing the pilot to hover over it rather than risk a landing. Benavidez jumped 10 feet to the ground and raced 75 meters to the men. He was struck almost immediately by numerous bullets and grenade shrapnel.

Details

For the next 6 hours, Master Sgt. Roy Benavidez performed feats worthy of earning the Congressional Medal of Honor.

On one trip, “he was clubbed in the jaw by an NVA soldier and run through with a bayonet. Benavidez killed the soldier with his knife and continued moving injured team members to the helicopter while holding in his intestines and killing two more NVA soldiers preparing to kill the helicopter pilot.”

Benavidez suffered a total of 37 bayonet, bullet and shrapnel wounds. He later wrote, “Every movement brought a hail of gunfire. Men were crying and screaming for help. I was one of them. We were going to die.”

Throughout the chaos, Master Sgt. Benavidez maintained a cool head, positioning men in defensive formation and calling in airstrikes, all while rendering first aid.

Benavidez awoke in a Saigon hospital, laying on a gurney. He recalled, “tubes sticking in every opening in my body.” He was in agonizing pain, aided only by massive doses of narcotics. He faded in and out of consciousness. A doctor thought he was dead and started zipping him up in a body bag. With all the strength he could muster, Benavidez spit blood at the doctor to show he was still alive.

During his Congressional Medal of Honor Ceremony, President Ronald Reagan stated,” If it were a Hollywood movie script, you wouldn’t believe it,” describing Master Sgt. Roy Benavidez’s actions that fateful day.

Even to this day, when Special Forces members are involved in a firefight, and things are going badly, or courage needs to be summoned, they call out, “Tango! Mike! Mike!” Master Sgt. Roy Benavidez’s radio call sign. He is that legendary!

Honor Him

So, this Independence Day, while standing around the grill, drinking a cold beverage or maybe while watching the fireworks, remember the men and women like Master Sgt. Roy Benavidez, and what they mean to our country and other countries around the world.

Maybe you can find it in your heart to say thank you or even say a prayer for our fighting men and women to be safe if you believe in a higher being. Last of all, say thank you for the men and women like Master Sgt. Roy Benavidez for being who they are.

If this is your first time hearing the name Master Sgt. Roy Benavidez, a new book was just released, “The Ballad of Roy Benavidez” by William Sturkey. It’s a great read and goes into detail about the life and times of a true American hero!

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