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First Name: Raul

Last Name: Benavidez

Birthplace: Lindenau, TX, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Middle Name: Perez

Date of Birth: 05 August 1935

Date of Death: 29 November 1998

Rank: Master Sergeant

Years Served: 1952-55 (Natl Guard), 1955-1976 (Army)
Raul Perez Benavidez

•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)


Raul (Roy) Perez Benavidez
Master Sergeant, U.S. Army
Medal of Honor Recipient
Vietnam War

Raul (Roy) Perez Benavidez (5 August 1935 - 29 November 1998) was a Master Sergeant and member of the Studies and Observations Group of the U.S. Army. He received the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in combat near Lộc Ninh, South Vietnam on 2 May 1968.

The Early Years

Raul (Roy) Perez Benavidez was born in Lindenau near Cuero, TX, in DeWitt County. His parents were of Mexican and Yaqui Indian ancestry. When he was two years old, his father died of tuberculosis and his mother remarried. Five years later, his mother died from tuberculosis too. Benavidez and his younger brother, Roger, and half-sister María Guadalupe, moved to El Campo, where their grandfather, uncle, and aunt raised them, along with eight cousins.

Benavidez shined shoes at the local bus station, labored on farms in Texas and Colorado, and worked at a tire shop in El Campo. He attended school sporadically and, at age 15, he dropped out to work full-time to help support the family.

Military Career

In 1952, during the Korean War, Benavidez enlisted the Texas Army National Guard. In June 1955, he enlisted in the regular U.S. Army. He married Hilaria Coy in 1959, the year he completed his airborne training and was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg. In 1965 he was sent to South Vietnam as an advisor to an ARVN infantry regiment. He stepped on a land mine during a patrol and was evacuated to the U.S., where doctors at Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) thought he would never walk again. Despite serious injury to his spine, Benavidez walked out of the hospital in July 1966, his wife at his side.

Benavidez returned to Fort Bragg to begin training for the elite Studies and Observations Group (SOG). Despite continuing pain from by his wounds, he became a member of the 5th Special Forces Group and returned to South Vietnam in January 1968. On 2 May 1968, a 12-man Special Forces team was surrounded by a NVA battalion. Benavidez heard the radio appeal for help and boarded a helicopter to respond. Armed only with a knife, he jumped from the helicopter carrying a medical bag and rushed to join the trapped team. Nearly dead from a total of 37 separate bayonet, bullet and shrapnel wounds received on multiple occasions over the course of the six hour fight between the 13 men and an enemy battalion, Benavidez was evacuated once again to Brooke Army Medical Center, where he eventually recovered. For his heroism, the Army awarded him the Distinguished Service Cross.

In 1973, after more detailed accounts became available, Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel Ralph R. Drake insisted that Benavidez receive the Medal of Honor. 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 still denied him the Medal of Honor. The board required an eyewitness account from someone present during the action, but Benavidez thought that no others were alive who had been at the "Six Hours in Hell." In 1980, however, Brian O'Connor, a radioman in the attacked Special Forces team, provided a ten-page report of the engagement. O'Connor had been severely wounded (Benavidez had believed him dead), and was evacuated to the U.S. before his superiors could fully debrief him. O'Connor learned that Benavidez was alive by chance. He had been living in the Fiji Islands and was on holiday in Australia when he read a newspaper account of Benavidez from an El Campo newspaper. It had been picked up by the international press and reprinted in Australia. O'Connor soon contacted his old friend and submitted his report, confirming the accounts already provided by others and providing the missing eyewitness.

On 24 February 1981, President Ronald Reagan presented Roy Benavidez the Medal of Honor. Reagan reportedly 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.

Medal of Honor


Rank and organization: Master Sergeant. Organization: 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

Born: 5 August 1935, DeWitt County, Cuero, Texas.

Citation: 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. 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, re-instilling 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 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 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.

Additional Details from Roy Benavidez about the Citation Information

When they helped get Benavidez into the helicopter, his intestines were in his hands.

After arriving back at the FOB in Lộc Ninh, they learned that, in addition to loading all the trapped team's wounded, Benavidez had also loaded 3 dead Vietcong soldiers. (When they later asked him why, his reply was, "I didn't want to leave anybody behind! My mission was to recover all classified documents and if they had any papers on them, they got carried to the helicopter."

Benavidez said that because he had a slight "oriental" look, they had laid him next to the enemy soldiers in the helicopter. Benavidez heard the zippers as the medics began zipping the enemy soldiers into body bags. Then he felt his legs being lifted and heard the zipper as they started zipping him into a body bag. In his mind, Roy said he was thinking "Oh God, no!"

Benavidez said that during his second trip carrying team members to the helicopter, he was attacked by a Vietcong soldier who struck him in the mouth with the butt of his rifle, dislocating his jaw and locking it into place. (Armed only with a bayonet, Benavidez killed the soldier in hand-to-hand combat!) So Roy was unable to talk and couldn't move his eyes because the dried blood on his face and eyes was so thick that they were sealed shut. As the zipper was reaching his shoulders, Roy could hear his friend jumping up and down and telling the doctor "No, No, that's Roy Benavidez!" The doctor replied that he was sorry but there wasn't anything he could do for him. At that point the friend made the doctor at least put his hand on Roy's heart to check for a heartbeat. When Roy felt the hand on his chest, he said he made the 'best shot' he had ever made in his life: He spit in the doctor's face! The doctor then said, "I think he'll make it."

As they were evacuating Roy and the other wounded to the hospital, a wounded friend that Roy had saved was lying next to him and Roy was holding his hand and telling him to "hold on, we're going to get some help now." Moments later his friend slowly released Roy's hand. Roy was in agony from the loss of his friend now, after having saved him, and was moving around so much that the co-pilot saw him and came toward Roy with a knife in his hand. He thought Roy was having trouble breathing and was preparing to do a tracheotomy on him. Benavidez said that after almost kicking the co-pilot out of the helicopter, he thought "This has been a really tough day."


Despite the severe injuries Benavidez sustained in Vietnam, he continued serving the Army and was assigned to Fort Riley, KS; Fort Devens, MA; and Fort Sam Houston, TX. In August 1976 he retired from the U.S. Army as a Master Sergeant. Benavidez, his wife, and their three children then returned home to El Campo, TX.

The Post-Retirement Years

Benavidez 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."

In 1983, Benavidez told the press that the Social Security Administration planned to cut off disability payments he had been receiving since retirement, as well as the disability payments for thousands of other veterans. He went to Capitol Hill on their behalf and pleaded with the House Select Committee on Aging to abandon their plans, which they finally did.

Benavidez was in demand as a speaker by U.S. 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.

He wrote two 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. Benavidez later wrote Medal of Honor: A Vietnam Warrior's Story in 1995.

Medals, Awards, Badges and Tabs

Medal of Honor
Purple Heart with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters (5 awards)
Meritorious Service Medal
Army Commendation Medal
Army Good Conduct Medal with 2 Silver Loops (7 awards)
Army of Occupation Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
Vietnam Service Medal with 4 Bronze Stars
Korea Defense Service Medal
Humanitarian Service Medal
Army Service Ribbon
United Nations Service Medal
Vietnam Campaign Medal
Presidential Unit Citation
Army Meritorious Unit Citation
Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation
Vietnam Civil Actions Medal
Combat Infantryman Badge
Master Parachutist Badge
Army Special Forces Tab


• 1981 Texan of the Year
• Honorary Associate in Arts from the New Mexico Military Institute
• Presented Martha Raye with the Presidential Medal of Freedom
• Special USPS Pictorial Cancellation Stamp
• Lifetime Achievement Award from St. Mary's University Alumni Law School in San Antonio, TX
• Congressional Medal of Honor Memorial in Indianapolis, IN
• The Medal of Honor Memorial at Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, CA
• Texas Legislative Medal of Honor
• GI Joe, Roy P. Benavidez Commemorative Edition - Released 31 August 2001 (First Hispanic to be honored.)
• Memorial Bench at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery

A number of institutions and buildings bear Benavidez's name. These include:

• Roy P. Benavidez American Legion Post #400 in San Antonio, TX
• Roy P. Benavidez Army Reserve Center, NAS Corpus Christi, TX
• Roy P. Benavidez Artillery Training Area 67 at Fort Sill, OK
• Roy P. Benavidez City Park in Colorado Springs, CO
• Roy P. Benavidez Elementary School in Gulfton, Houston, TX
• Roy P. Benavidez Elementary School in San Antonio, TX
• Roy P. Benavidez Foundation, Inc.
• Roy P. Benavidez Military Range at Fort Knox, KY
• Roy P. Benavidez National Guard Armory in El Campo, TX
• Roy P. Benavidez Scholarship Fund in El Campo
• Roy P. Benavidez Special Operations Logistic Complex at Fort Bragg, NC
• U.S. Military Academy, West Point, Saber
• USNS Benavidez, a Bob Hope-class roll-on roll-off vehicle cargo ship

The conference Room owned and operated by the Department of Military Instruction. 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.

Death and Burial

Roy Benavidez, age 63, died on 29 November 1998, at Brooke Army Medical Center, after suffering respiratory failure from the complications of diabetes. His body was escorted to St. Robert Belleramine's Catholic Church, where he had married, where his three children were married, and where he worshipped every Sunday. He was then returned to Fort Sam Houston's Main Chapel for a public viewing. Archbishop Patrick Flores of the San Antonio Dioceses presided over a Catholic funeral mass at San Fernando Cathedral located in San Antonio.

Benavidez was buried with full military honors at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, TX, in Section A1, Grave 553.

Honoree ID: 895   Created by: MHOH




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