Roy Benavidez

Rescued a 12 man team from Viet Cong – over 40 wounds

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Roy Benavidez's ordeal began at Loc Ninh, a Green Beret outpost near the Cambodian border. It was 1:30 p.m., May 2, 1968. A chaplain was holding a prayer service around a jeep for the sergeant and several other soldiers. Suddenly, shouts rang out from a nearby shortwave radio. "Get us out of here!" someone screamed. "For God's sake, get us out!" A 12-man team monitoring enemy troop movements in the jungle had found itself surrounded by a North Vietnamese army battalion.

With out orders, Benavidez grabbed his rifle and dashed for a helicopter preparing for a rescue attempt. "I'm coming with you," he told the three crew members. Airborne, they spotted the soldiers in a tight circle. A few hundred enemy troops surrounded them in the jungle, some within 25 yards of the Americans' position. The chopper dropped low, ran into withering fire and quickly retreated. Spotting a small clearing 75 yards away, Benavidez told the pilot, "Over there, over there."

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The helicopter reached the clearing and hovered 10 feet off the ground. Benavidez made the sign of the cross, jumped out and ran toward the trapped men. A bullet hit his right leg. He fell, then got up and kept running. An exploding hand grenade knocked him down and ripped his face with shrapnel. He shouted prayers, got up again and staggered to the men.

Four of thes oldiers were dead; the other eight wounded and pinned down in two groups. Benavidez directed the helicopter to a landing near one group. He dragged the dead and wounded aboard. The chopper lifted a few feet off the ground and moved toward the second group, with Benavidez running beneath it, firing his rifle. He spotted the body of the team leader. Ordering the other soldiers to crawl toward the chopper, he retrieved a pouch dangling from the dead man's neck; in the pouch were classified papers with radio codes and call signs. As he shoved the papers into his shirt, a bullet struck his stomach and a grenade shattered his back. And the helicopter, barely off the ground, suddenly crashed, its pilot shot dead.

Benavidez pulled the wounded from the wreckage, forming a small perimeter. He passed out ammunition taken from the dead and radioed for air suppor. Jets and helicopter gunships strafed threatening enemy soldiers while Benavidez tended the wounded. "Are you hurt bad, Sarge?" one soldier asked. "Hell, no," said Benavidez, about to collapse from blood loss. I been hit so many times I don't give a damn no more."
Enemy fire raked the perimeter. Several of the wounded were hit again, including Benavidez, who took a bullet in the thigh. Blood streamed down his face, blinding him. Still he called in air strikes, adjusting their targets by sound. Several times, pilots thought he was dead, but then his voice would come back on the radio, calling for closer strikes.

Finally, a helicopter landed. "Pray and move out," Benavidez told the men as he helped each one aboard. He staggered through tall grass to fetch another soldier. Suddenly an NVA soldier stood up, swung his rifle and clubbed the sergeant in the face. Benavidez fell, rolled over and got up just as the soldier lunged forward with his bayonet. Benavidez grabbed it, slashing his right hand, and pulled his attacker toward him. With his left hand, he drew his knife and stabbed the NVA. As Benavidez dragged an American to the chopper, he saw two enemy soldiers come out of the jungle. He grabbed a rifle and shot both. Benavidez made one more trip to the clearing and came back with a Vietnamese interpreter. Only then did the sergeant let others pull him aboard the helicopter.

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Blood dripped from the door as the chopper lumbered into the air. Benavidez was holding in his intestines with his hand. At Loc Ninh, he was so immobile they placed him with the dead

A true Medal of Honor winner