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MSG Raul "Roy" P. Benavidez: Badass of the Month__________________________________________________ _________
What is a badass? On a Martial Arts forum, one would expect a “Badass” to be someone who can split a coconut with an axe kick, Andy Hugg, or someone who allegedly has a fight record of 400-1, Rickson by armbar damnit!!!, or even the guy who gave that legend his supposedly only loss, Ron Tripp. However, a true “badass” does not have to be someone who merely excels in the ring, cage, or octagon. A “badass” is someone who exhibits and/or demonstrates an extreme disregard for his or her own safety in order to help her fellow man. A "badass" is someone who has sacrificed or overcome insurmountable odds for the betterment of something as small as one or two people or something as large as actions that effect a society as a whole.
Each month a “Badass” will be chosen and his or her accomplishments and story will be put in the spotlight for the edification of the huddled masses who should decide to read about these extraordinary people. Some you may have heard of; some you may have not. Regardless, read on, and enjoy.
THE END OF A LONG DAY
My next semiconscious memory was that of laying on the ground outside of the chopper. I couldn’t move or speak. I was in deep shock, but I knew that the medics were placing me in a body bag.
They thought I was dead and I couldn’t respond. To this day I can still hear the sound of the snaps being closed on that green bag.
My eyes were blinded. My jaws were broken. I had over thirty seven puncture wounds. My intestines were exposed. Jerry Cottingham recognized my face in the body bag before it was closed.
“That's Benavidez. Get a doc!!!,” screamed Jerry.
When the doctor placed his hand on my chest to feel for a heartbeat, I spat into his face. He quickly reversed my condition from dead to
"He won't make it, but we'll try.”
MEDAL OF HONOR: A Vietnam Warriors Story, MSG Roy P. Benavidez, USA SF (Ret.), Page 145, (1995)Master Sergeant Roy P. Benavidez, U.S. Army, Special Forces, Green Beret; recipient of the Combat Infantry Badge for his Viet Nam war service, the Purple Heart Medal with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters, Viet Nam Campaign Medal with 4 Battle Stars, Viet Nam Service Medal, Air Medal, Master Parachutist Badge, Vietnamese Parachutist Badge, Republic of Viet Nam Cross of Gallantry with Palm, and other numerous decorations including the most prestigious, honored, and revered service medal for valor that any U.S. Soldier can receive, the Congressional Medal of Honor. Master Sergeant Benavidez was initially awarded the Distinguished Service Cross from Gen. William Westmoreland for his heroism in a rescue of Special Forces troops in Cambodia on May 2, 1968. That medal was upgraded in 1980 to the Medal of Honor once the selfless and heroic acts of MSG Benavidez were corroborated by one of the men he saved on that day, Specialist Four, Brian O'Connor, the Green Beret who had radioed the frantic message seeking evacuation. For this, the late MSG Benavidez is Bullshido’s Badass of the Month, December 2006.
The following is the exact account of the events which occurred on May 2, 1968, that warranted the awarding of the Medal of Honor to MSG Benavidez:
Rank and Organization: Master Sergeant, Detachment B-56, 5th Special Forces Group, Republic of Vietnam.
Place and Date: West of Loc Ninh on 2 May 1968.
Entered Service at: Houston, Texas June 1955.
Date and Place of Birth: 5 August 1935, DeWitt County, Cuero, Texas.
Summary of Events: Master Sergeant (then Staff Sergeant) Roy P. Benavidez United States Army, who distinguished himself by a series of daring and extremely valorous actions on 2 May 1968 while assigned to Detachment B56, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, Republic of Vietnam.
Detailed Account of Events: On the morning of 2 May 1968, a 12-man Special Forces Reconnaissance Team was inserted by helicopters in a dense jungle area west of Loc Ninh, Vietnam to gather intelligence information about confirmed large-scale enemy activity. This area was controlled and routinely patrolled by the North Vietnamese Army. After a short period of time on the ground, the team met heavy enemy resistance, and requested emergency extraction. Three helicopters attempted extraction, but were unable to land due to intense enemy small arms and anti-aircraft fire.
Sergeant Benavidez was at the Forward Operating Base in Loc Ninh monitoring the operation by radio when these helicopters returned to off-load wounded crewmembers and to assess aircraft damage. Sergeant Benavidez voluntarily boarded a returning aircraft to assist in another extraction attempt. Realizing that all the team members were either dead or wounded and unable to move to the pickup zone, he directed the aircraft to a nearby clearing where he jumped from the hovering helicopter, and ran approximately 75 meters under withering small arms fire to the crippled team.
Prior to reaching the team's position he was wounded in his right leg, face, and head. Despite these painful injuries, he took charge, repositioning the team members and directing their fire to facilitate the landing of an extraction aircraft, and the loading of wounded and dead team members. He then threw smoke canisters to direct the aircraft to the team's position. Despite his severe wounds and under intense enemy fire, he carried and dragged half of the wounded team members to the awaiting aircraft. He then provided protective fire by running alongside the aircraft as it moved to pick up the remaining team members.
As the enemy's fire intensified, he hurried to recover the body and classified documents on the dead team leader. When he reached the leader's body, Sergeant Benavidez was severely wounded by small arms fire in the abdomen and grenade fragments in his back. At nearly the same moment, the aircraft pilot was mortally wounded, and his helicopter crashed. Although in extremely critical condition due to his multiple wounds, Sergeant Benavidez secured the classified documents and made his way back to the wreckage, where he aided the wounded out of the overturned aircraft, and gathered the stunned survivors into a defensive perimeter.
Under increasing enemy automatic weapons and grenade fire, he moved around the perimeter distributing water and ammunition to his weary men, reinstilling in them a will to live and fight. Facing a buildup of enemy opposition with a beleaguered team, Sergeant Benavidez mustered his strength, began calling in tactical air strikes and directed the fire from supporting gunships to suppress the enemy's fire and so permit another extraction attempt.
He was wounded again in his thigh by small arms fire while administering first aid to a wounded team member just before another extraction helicopter was able to land. His indomitable spirit kept him going as he began to ferry his comrades to the craft. On his second trip with the wounded, he was clubbed from additional wounds to his head and arms before killing his adversary. He then continued under devastating fire to carry the wounded to the helicopter.
Upon reaching the aircraft, he spotted and killed two enemy soldiers who were rushing the craft from an angle that prevented the aircraft door gunner from firing upon them. With little strength remaining, he made one last trip to the perimeter to ensure that all classified material had been collected or destroyed, and to bring in the remaining wounded. Only then, in extremely serious condition from numerous wounds and loss of blood, did he allow himself to be pulled into the extraction aircraft.
Sergeant Benavidez' 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. His fearless personal leadership, tenacious devotion to duty, and extremely valorous actions in the face of overwhelming odds were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service, and reflect the utmost credit on him and the United States Army.The Personification of a “Hero”
Raul “Roy” P. Benavidez was the son of a Texas sharecropper and was born on August 5, 1935, in Cuero, Texas. Roy's parents, Salvador and Teresa Benavidez, died not long after his birth. He and his younger brother, Rodrigo, were sent to live with their uncle, Nicholas Benavidez. Throughout Roy's childhood and adolescent years, the Benavidez’s family worked as migrant workers; working the sugar and cotton fields in Texas and Colorado. He dropped out of middle school to work with his family in the fields and also worked for many years at a Firestone store that was owned by a family friend. Being of mixed decent, Mexican and Yaqui Indian, Roy endured discrimination and racism throughout his adolescent years. The tormenting endured by Roy frequently led to fights with his tormentors and run ins with the local authorities. Coincidentally, his uncle, Nicholas, was a local deputy sheriff. He enlisted in the army at the age of 19. Given that the legendary Audie Murphy was Roy’s idol, one could only imagine that he was going to be a great soldier.
After basic training Benavidez worked for a few years as an MP and acted as a driver for various generals and their families. His goal when enlisting was to be Airborne. However, circumstances put that goal on hold for almost four years, when he was able to get transferred to Airborne. He was also able to obtain his high school diploma through the U.S. Army during these years.
Upon completion of Airborne training Roy was shipped off to Vietnam. At the time he was deployed, 1959, the U.S. presence in Vietnam was one of “observation” and as “advisors” to local infantry to assist in quelling the “civil war.” Roy’s Airborne training did not prepare him for the horrors and abject poverty that he experienced while in Vietnam. The following is an account of one gruesome episode as told by MSG Benavidez in his autobiography:
Things were heating up in our sector in II Corps, and refugees were starting to become a problem. Both sides had taken to destroying whole villages as retaliation for anything and everything. Those poor farmers had nowhere to go and nothing to eat. Down the road from our camp, just outside of Tam Ky, the refugees had started to congregate and build temporary shelters. By this time there were over three hundred of them living there without roofs or latrines, just existing.
My mind raced back to the picking fields of Texas and Colorado. Back to my youth. We had lived well compared to the way those people were living.
We talked about the situation among ourselves and with other advisors in the outlying camps. Finally, we did something about it. We scrounged around, as only U.S. Army troops could, and came up with enough material to build three barracks and some sanitation facilities for them.
We were still feeling pretty proud of ourselves a couple of nights later when we heard all hell break loose down there. As we raced out from our hooch, all we could see were gunships laying down fire around the camp. About that time all hell broke loose around us, too. Two mortar rounds almost landed right on top of me. The latrine was one jump away and the only cover around. I stayed dry and took my chances above ground. Sniper fire was coming in pretty heavy. We knew it wasn’t a full-blown attack It was just a little holding action while the VC butchered the refugee camp.
[We] made it over to the camp at first light. There wasn’t an ARVN (Army, Republic of Vietnam) soldier in sight. These were their people lying there butchered and they could not have cared less. The people who were still alive were wandering around in a daze.
We heard a wailing coming from around the corner of one of the barracks, and the captain rounded the corner first. I wish I had never followed him around that corner. Three children were nailed to the barracks wall. Nails through their little hands and nails through their tiny feet. They had been crucified three feet off the ground. The VC had used them for target practice and they were pretty chewed up. All I could do was cross myself over and over again. I have never experienced so many conflicting emotions simultaneously before or since. There are no words known to man that can express my feelings at that moment in my life.
An old man was kneeling below a little naked girl who had been crucified. His palms were turned up, and he was catching the drops of blood as they slowly dripped off her toe. My worst nightmares are the subconscious recollections of that father crying as he collected the child’s lifeblood. We backed out of the camp without a word. Each one of us knew that if we hadn’t tried to help those people they would still be alive, and the villagers knew it, too.
MEDAL OF HONOR: A Vietnam Warriors Story, MSG Roy P. Benavidez, USA SF (Ret.), Pages 79-80, (1995)
Roy stubbornly refused to believe the prognosis and what followed was 5 months of painful rehabilitation which Roy did on his own at night by throwing himself out of the hospital bed and dragging himself across the floor to two nightstands that he used night after night to try and pull himself up to his feet. While the doctors stated that he would be stuck in a wheel chair for the rest of his life and that his discharge papers “were being processed”, within 8 months of being crippled and found on the side of a jungle trail in Vietnam Roy was placed behind a desk on limited duty. While on limited duty Roy rehabilitated his back and legs. Prior to the end of his first tour he had applied for a transfer to Army Special Forces and he was determined to be prepared should the call come. It did and he was.
Roy successfully completed Special Forces training and earned his Green Beret. He was assigned to Detachment B56, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, Republic of Vietnam, and he began his second tour. Unit B-56 was a SOG unit. Officially, SOG stood for “Studies and Observations Group”; unofficially it stood for “Special Operations Group.” The North Vietnamese (NVC) were using Cambodia as an entryway to South Vietnam during the conflict. It was not publicly admitted by the U.S. until the early 1980's that SOG units were assigned to conduct various special operations within the borders of Cambodia and Laos to spy on the troop movement and deployments of NVC along the boarders and along the Ho Chi Mihn trail. Roy’s unit was one of those special ops units.
On May 1, 1968, a small spec ops team from Roy’s unit was deployed behind enemy lines just across the border of Cambodia. Their objective was to identify and track NVA (North Vietnamese Army) movement and steal an enemy truck to be inspected by Intel who were expecting a major Tet offensive and wanted the truck. The small team was leaving from the Special Forces base at Loc Ninh. Roy was ordered to stay at the base to act as support for “a special assignment.”
At some point the team radioed back to Loc Ninh reporting overwhelming enemy fire and requested extraction. Helicopters were sent to extract Roy’s brothers from behind enemy lines. It was not until the second helicopter returned that Roy realized how bad things were for his friends in the field. Without thinking twice, Roy hopped on the next evac. helicopter out of Loc Ninh to help rescue his brothers. What happened next is pretty well covered and described in Roy's Medal of Honor citation listed above. What is not stated in the citation is that it was later discovered that the Roy and the survivors he had managed to pull together at the landing zone were surrounded by more than 350 NVA and 30 crew operated machine gun turrets.
Given the secret nature of SOG deployments in Cambodia and Laos it was not until 1981 that MSG Benavidez's Distinguish Service Cross was upgraded to the Medal of Honor. In order to receive the highest award a U.S. soldier can receive, the story must be corroborated by eyewitness accounts. It was not until the covert U.S. activity in Cambodia and Laos during the Vietnam war was revealed that the true story behind MSG Benavidez’s actions could come to light.
After his receipt of the Medal of Honor from President Ronald Regan in February of 1981, MSG Benavidez went on to be an active spokesperson in favor of Social Security benefits for disabled U.S. servicemen. He went on to testify before U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Aging and brought heartfelt first-hand testimony about the trouble disabled servicemen were facing in obtaining their earned social security disability benefits.
Benavidez died on November 29, 1998, at Brooke Army Medical Center. Five days later, more than 1,500 family and friends gave Benavidez one last salute as he was buried at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery. At the time of his death, MSG Benavidez was survived by his wife, Hilaria; a son, Noel; two daughters, Yvette Garcia and Denise Prochazka; a brother, Roger; five stepbrothers, Mike, Eugene, Frank, Nick and Juquin Benavidez; four sisters, Mary Martinez, Lupe Chavez, Helene Vallejo and Eva Campos, and three grandchildren.
Honors and Dedications
USNS Benavidez: The second Navy vessel named for a Hispanic Texan. The ship was commissioned as a non-combatant vessel run by civilian mariners and operated by the U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command, Washington, D.C.
Master Sgt. Roy P. Benavidez Special Operations Logistics Complex: $14 million dollar complex located at Fort Bragg, N.C.
Roy P. Benavidez Memorial Sculpture Project: In November of 2002 Valor Remembered Foundation teamed with Mark Austin Byrd, Sculptor, for the development of the memorial statue. (5)
Roy P. Benavidez Park: A 7.08 acre park located in Colorado Springs, Colorado – Dedicated June 16, 2001. (6)
Roy P. Benavidez Elementary School: 6262 Gulfton, Houston, Texas 77081
Roy P. Benavidez Elementary School: San Antonio, Texas 78224, established 1995. (7)
12” Sgt. Roy P. Benavidez, Medal of Honor G.I. Joe: The first Hispanic GI Joe figure produced by Hasbro was dedicated to the late Roy P. Benavidez. (8)
Fort Roy P. Benavidez: A retreat established by Vision Quest for troubled youth in Uvalde, Texas. (1)
Tango Mike/Mike: The now legendary call sign for MSG Benavidez; used to this day to identify him by Army Special Forces everywhere.
“The real heroes are the ones who gave their lives for their country… I don't like to be called a hero. I just did what I was trained to do,” Master Sergeant Roy P. Benavidez United States Army, 1935 – 1998.
(5) Richard Goldstein, The New York Times, December 4, 1998
(9) MEDAL OF HONOR: A Vietnam Warriors Story, MSG Roy P. Benavidez, USA SF (Ret.) (1995)