The Democrats Abroad Hispanic Caucus proudly recognizes the unparalleled patriotism of Medal of Honor recipient Master Sergeant Raul “Roy” P. Benavidez.
As one of the most courageous and honorable people in our nation’s history, we simply cannot talk about Hispanic Heritage Month without mentioning Benavidez. Born in Texas in 1935 to a Mexican-American father and Yacqui Native American mother, Benavidez’s childhood was rough with having to move in with his extended family after both of his parents had passed away when he was a boy. As a teenager, he stopped attending school to work blue-collar jobs to help the family pay bills and make ends meet.
During the middle of the Korean War, Benavidez decided to enlist in the U.S. Army. A few years later, Benavidez arrived in Vietnam and was critically-injured from stepping on a landmine. With severe bodily damage from shrapnel, medical professionals back in Texas concluded that he would never walk again. Determined to prove the doctors wrong, Benavidez struggled to get out of bed every night to exercise and flex his injured limbs. One year later, he shocked the medical staff by walking out of the hospital, and then left to rejoin his fellow platoon members in Vietnam.
The Vietnam War tragically ended with roughly 60,000 deaths of U.S. troops and 1.3 million deaths of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians. Yet, it produced several American heroes. Roy Benavidez was one of those heroes.
Known as the “six hours of hell” in South Vietnam in May 1968, then-SSgt. Benavidez, armed with only a knife, rode a helicopter straight into harm’s way to help surrounded American Special Forces who were radioing for help. With incredible bravery, Benavidez, who received multiple near-fatal injuries, still managed to successfully complete his mission of assisting his countrymen in need and recovering classified materials. During the battle, the heavily-wounded Benavidez miraculously carried both wounded and dead American and Vietnamese soldiers and loaded them on an extraction helicopter. Sure enough, Benavidez both secured the highly-classified documents and saved the lives of at least eight American troops in those six hours.
Years later, President Reagan awarded MSgt. Benavidez with the Congressional Medal of Honor after another former solider came forward with eyewitness testimony of Benavidez’s heroic acts during that day of combat in 1968. Sadly, in 1998 Benavidez passed away in Texas after battling health issues – yet, his legacy and American spirit lives on.
Benavidez did not consider himself a hero. He once stated that he did those particular actions in war because he knew it was morally the right thing to do for his country and his countrymen.
Roy Benavidez was a historically-significant American patriot the Democrats Abroad Hispanic Caucus shall forever respect and admire. He showed us what it means to be brave in the face of extreme peril, what it is to fight for what you love, for what you believe, and for your values. May his heroism, his sacrifice and his teachings never be forgotten. Let us all fight like Roy Benavidez did.