On the morning of May 2, 1968, Mr. Benavidez, a staff sergeant with the Green Berets, heard the cry ''get us out of here'' over his unit's radio while at his base in Loc Ninh, South Vietnam.
The call for aid came from a 12-man Special Forces team that had been ambushed by North Vietnamese troops at a jungle site.
Sergeant Benavidez jumped aboard an evacuation helicopter that flew to the scene. He was shot and injured upon landing, but he ran toward his fellow troops.
He dragged survivors aboard the helicopter, but its pilot was killed by enemy fire and the helicopter crashed. Sergeant Benavidez got the troops off the helicopter, and over the next six hours, he organized return fire, called in air strikes, administered morphine, and recovered classified documents, although he himself was injured.
He was bayoneted by a North Vietnamese soldier, whom he killed with a knife. Finally, he shot two enemy soldiers as he dragged the survivors aboard another evacuation helicopter.
Sergeant Benavidez was unable to move or speak. Just as he was about to be placed into a body bag, he spit into a doctor's face to signal that he was still alive.
President Reagan presented the Medal of Honor to Mr. Benavidez on Feb. 24, 1981.
In 1983, Mr. Benavidez stated that the Social Security Administration planned to cut off disability payments he had been receiving since 1976. He still had two pieces of shrapnel in his heart and a punctured lung and was in constant pain from his war wounds. Yet the Government, as part of a cost-cutting review, had decided that Mr. Benavidez could find employment.
Mr. Benavidez said. ''I don't like to use my Medal of Honor for political purposes or personal gain, but if they can do this to me, what will they do to all the others?''
President Reagan was ''personally concerned'' about Mr. Benavidez's situation, and 10 days later the government said the disability reviews would become more ''humane and compassionate.''
Born in South Texas, the son of a sharecropper, Mr. Benavidez was orphaned as a youngster. He dropped out of middle school because he was needed to pick sugar beets and cotton. He joined the Army at 19, went to airborne school, and then was injured by a land mine in South Vietnam in 1964. Doctors feared he would never walk again, but he recovered and became a Green Beret. He was on his second Vietnam tour when he carried out his rescue mission.
''The real heroes are the ones who gave their lives for their country,'' Mr. Benavidez once said. ''I don't like to be called a hero. I just did what I was trained to do.''
Roy P. Benavidez died Nov 29, 1998, at the age of 63.
The unforgettable account and courageous actions of the U.S. Army’s 240th Assault Helicopter Company and Green Beret Staff Sergeant Roy Benavidez, who risked everything to rescue a Special Forces team trapped behind enemy lines.
|List of All Medal Of Honor Recipients|