For Outstanding Valor and Courage: The Roy Benavidez Story

President Reagan awards Master Sergeant Benavidez the Medal of Honor. Image courtesy of
President Reagan awards Master Sergeant Benavidez the Medal of Honor. Image courtesy of

“If the story of his heroism were a movie script, you would not believe it.” — Ronald Reagan, February 24th, 1981, during the Medal of Honor speech for Master Sergeant Roy P. Benavidez

Selfless Service

On a trip through dense jungle undergrowth to recover more wounded, the 34-year-old Special Forces sergeant was clubbed from behind by an enemy soldier. Roy Benavidez felt his head split open and warm blood oozed down the back of his neck. In a fight for his life, the operator turned and engaged his enemy in close-quarters combat.

Before the engagement was over, Roy Benavidez suffered multiple bayonet injuries to his head and arms. Nevertheless, he managed to kill his adversary with a knife, plunging it into his chest so deep that he could not pull it back out. It remained with the body.

The wounded soldier continued his task of carrying casualties to a waiting helicopter. While doing so, he killed two additional enemies who began rushing him. Finally, Benavidez made one final trip back to the perimeter to ensure all classified materials had either been retrieved or destroyed.

Only then, in extremely serious condition after suffering a massive loss of blood, did he allow himself to be pulled into the extraction aircraft. His actions that day saved the lives of at least eight men.

The helicopter slowly lifted, nose down, and began its flight to the forward operating base (FOB). During his evacuation, Sergeant Roy Benavidez lost consciousness. His eyes sealed shut as the blood dried around them. His jaw was broken from the blows he took to the head, rendering him unable to speak.

A tough beginning

Raul Perez Benavidez was born in Lindenau, Texas, in late November of 1935. For as long as he could remember, everyone called him “Roy.”

Both of Roy’s parents died from tuberculosis while he was a young child, forcing him to move into a cramped house with his grandparents, uncle, aunt, and eight cousins. As a boy, he attended school infrequently because he spent so much time shining shoes at a local bus station. He was doing his part to help support his extended family.