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Roy Perez Benavidez (August 5, 1935�??November 29, 1998) was a member of the highly-classified Studies and Observations Group. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in eastern Cambodia (although the citation stated that they occurred "west of Loc Ninh, Republic of Vietnam" on May 2, 1968).
Roy Benavidez was born in Cuero in DeWitt County. He was of Mexican and Yaqui Indian ancestry.
He entered the U.S. Army in June 1955, becoming a Special Forces soldier. Serving in combat during the Vietnam War, on May 2, 1968, he "distinguished himself by a series of daring and extremely glorious actions... while assigned to Detachment B-56, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces. Benavidez was originally awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, but upon hearing that he had survived the war, his former commander started the process to have the medal upgraded.
"Benavidez suffered a broken jaw and 37 bullet and bayonet puncture wounds in the fight. He was so mauled that his commanding officer thought he wouldn't live long enough to receive a Medal of Honor. He nominated Benavidez for the Distinguished Service Cross instead, because the No. 2 award would take less time and paperwork to obtain." On February 24, 1981, President Ronald W. Reagan presented Benavidez with the Medal of Honor. Benavidez is one of the 43 Hispanic Americans among the 3,400 recipients of the Medal of Honor since the award was created in 1861.
Benavidez penned two autobiographical books related to his life and military experience. In 1986, The Three Wars of Roy Benavidez described his struggles growing up as a Mexican American youth, his military training and combat in Vietnam, and the efforts by others to get recognition for his actions in Vietnam. Benavidez later wrote the autobiographical Medal of Honor: A Vietnam Warrior's Story (1995).
Medal of Honor citation
On presenting Benavidez with the Medal of Honor, President Reagan turned to the gathered press and said: "You are going to hear something you would not believe if it were a script." He then read Master Sergeant Benavidez's 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.
Master Sergeant, then Staff Sergeant, United States Army. Who distinguished himself by a series of daring and extremely glorious actions on 2 May 1968 while assigned to Detachment B-56, Fifth Special Forces Group (Airborne), First Special Forces, Republic of Vietnam. On the morning of 2 May 1968, a twelve 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 crew members 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 gun ships 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 with 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 voluntarily join 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.