Roy Benavidez
United States ArmyMedal of Honorrecipient
Roy Benavidez
Master Sergeant Raul Perez Benavidez (August 5, 1935 – November 29, 1998) was a member of the Studies and Observations Group of the United States Army. He received the Medal of Honor for his actions in combat near Lộc Ninh, South Vietnam on May 2, 1968.
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    LATE_ADULTHOOD
  • 1998
    Age 62
    Roy Benavidez died on November 29, 1998, at the age of 63 at Brooke Army Medical Center, having suffered respiratory failure and complications of diabetes.
    More Details Hide Details His body was escorted to St. Robert Bellarmine Catholic Church, where he had married, where his three children were married, and where he attended Mass every Sunday. His body was then returned to Fort Sam Houston's Main Chapel for a public viewing. Family friend Archbishop Patrick Flores of the Archdiocese of San Antonio (now archbishop emeritus) presided over a Catholic funeral Mass at San Fernando Cathedral located in San Antonio. Master Sergeant Roy Benavidez was buried with full military honors at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery. Benavidez' military awards include: Benavidez' personal honors include: Buildings and institutions with Benavidez's name include: The conference room owned and operated by the Department of Military Instruction of the United States Military Academy is the "Benavidez Room". Inside the "Benavidez Room" there are signed pictures of MSG Benavidez, the citation from his Medal of Honor, and a G.I. Joe toy created in his likeness. The room is used primarily for planning Cadet Summer Military Training and hosting visitors.
  • FIFTIES
  • 1995
    Age 59
    Benavidez later wrote The Last Medal of Honor (Texas: Swan Publishers, 1991) with Pete Billac and Medal of Honor: A Vietnam Warrior's Story in 1995.
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  • 1986
    Age 50
    Author He wrote three autobiographical books about his life and military experience. In 1986, he published The Three Wars of Roy Benavidez, which described his struggles growing up as a poor Mexican-American orphan, his military training and combat in Vietnam, and the efforts by others to get recognition for his actions in Vietnam.
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  • FORTIES
  • 1983
    Age 47
    In 1983, Benavidez told the press that the Social Security Administration planned to cut off disability payments he had been receiving since his retirement, as well as the disability payments for thousands of other veterans.
    More Details Hide Details He went to Capitol Hill and pleaded with the House Select Committee on Aging to abandon their plans, which they finally did. Speaker Benavidez was in demand as a speaker by United States armed forces, schools, military and civic groups, and private businesses. He also spoke in Greece, Panama, Korea, and Japan, where he visited American military personnel and even joined them on field exercises. He received complimentary letters from students, service members, and private citizens throughout the world.
  • 1981
    Age 45
    On February 24, 1981, President Ronald Reagan presented Roy P. Benavidez with the Medal of Honor.
    More Details Hide Details Reagan turned to the press and said, "If the story of his heroism were a movie script, you would not believe it". He then read the official award citation. BENAVIDEZ, ROY P. Rank and organization: Master Sergeant. Organization: Detachment B-56, 5th Special Forces Group, Republic of Vietnam Place and date: West of Loc Ninh on May 2, 1968 Entered service at: Houston, Texas June 1955 Born: August 5, 1935, DeWitt County, Cuero, Texas. In 1976, Benavidez, his wife, and their three children returned home to El Campo, Texas. He devoted his remaining years to the youth of America, speaking to them about the importance of staying in school and getting an education. His message was simple: "An education is the key to success. Bad habits and bad company will ruin you."
  • 1980
    Age 44
    O'Connor had been living in the Fiji Islands when, in 1980, he was on holiday in Australia.
    More Details Hide Details During his holiday O'Connor read a newspaper account of Benavidez from an El Campo newspaper, which had been picked up by the international press and reprinted in Australia. O'Connor immediately contacted Benavidez and submitted a ten-page report of the encounter, confirming the accounts provided by others, and serving as the necessary eyewitness; Benavidez's Distinguished Service Cross accordingly was upgraded to the Medal of Honor.
  • THIRTIES
  • 1973
    Age 37
    In 1973, after more detailed accounts became available, Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel Ralph R. Drake insisted that Benavidez receive the Medal of Honor.
    More Details Hide Details By then, however, the time limit on the medal had expired. An appeal to Congress resulted in an exemption for Benavidez, but the Army Decorations Board denied him an upgrade of his Distinguished Service Cross to the Medal of Honor. The Army board required an eyewitness account from someone present during the action; however, Benavidez believed that there were no living witnesses of the "Six Hours in Hell." Unbeknownst to Benavidez, there was a living witness, who would later provide the eyewitness account necessary: Brian O'Connor, the former radioman of Benavidez's Special Forces team in Vietnam. O'Connor had been severely wounded (Benavidez had believed him dead), and he was evacuated to the United States before his superiors could fully debrief him.
  • 1972
    Age 36
    In 1972, he was assigned to Fort Sam Houston, Texas where he remained until retirement.
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  • 1969
    Age 33
    Benavidez 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 1969, he was assigned to Fort Riley, Kansas.
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  • 1968
    Age 32
    Despite continuing pain from his wounds, he returned to South Vietnam in January 1968.
    More Details Hide Details 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. Benavidez heard the radio appeal for help and boarded a helicopter to respond. Armed only with a knife, he jumped from the helicopter carrying his medical bag and ran to help the trapped patrol. Benavidez "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." At one point in the battle an NVA soldier accosted him and stabbed him with his bayonet. Benavidez pulled it out, yanked out his own knife, killed him and kept going, leaving his knife in the NVA soldiers body. After the battle, 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 in body bags, he was suddenly recognized by a friend who called for help. A doctor came and examined him but believed Benavidez was dead. The doctor was about to zip up the body bag when Benavidez managed to spit in his face, alerting the doctor that he was alive.(see medal citation below) Benavidez had a total of 37 separate bullet, bayonet, and shrapnel wounds from the six-hour fight with the enemy battalion.
  • 1966
    Age 30
    After over a year of hospitalization, Benavidez walked out of the hospital in July 1966, with his wife at his side, determined to return to combat in Vietnam.
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  • TWENTIES
  • 1965
    Age 29
    In 1965 he was sent to South Vietnam as an advisor to an Army of the Republic of Vietnam infantry regiment.
    More Details Hide Details 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 Benavidez 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), Benavidez would crawl using his elbows and chin to a wall near his bedside and (with the encouragement of his fellow patients, many of whom were permanently paralyzed and/or missing limbs), 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.
  • 1959
    Age 23
    In 1959, he married Hilaria Coy Benavidez, completed airborne training, and was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
    More Details Hide Details Benavidez returned to Fort Bragg and began training for the elite Army Special Forces. Once qualified and accepted, he became a member of the 5th Special Forces Group; and the Studies and Observations Group (SOG).
  • TEENAGE
  • 1955
    Age 19
    In June 1955, he switched from the Army National Guard to Army active duty.
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  • 1952
    Age 16
    Benavidez enlisted in the Texas Army National Guard in 1952 during the Korean War.
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  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1935
    Born
    Born on August 5, 1935.
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