Roy Benavidez: Vietnam War Hero

“Captain, what should I do with this soldier? This friend of his says he is alive, but he looks dead to me”

The Captain briefly looked at the Army medic and exclaimed “Zip up the bag, he’s dead.”

As I reached to zip the bag, I was suddenly showered with a green, gooey substance. Looking at the body in the bag, I saw some of the same green goo around his lips.

He had just spit on me.

“My goodness… He’s alive Captain!”

Master Sergeant Roy Benavidez was alive and his fellow soldier looked at me and said,

“You are looking at the most bad ass soldier the United States Army has ever had. You should save that spit as a memento.”

I decided to do some research on the soldier who spat on me and I must admit, I have that saliva in a jar on the fireplace mantle.

Let me tell you all about the soldier of soldiers, Roy Benavidez: Vietnam War hero.

The Birth Of A Future Hero

Salvador Benavidez had immigrated from Mexico to the South of Texas to obtain farm work. Here he met a Yaqui squaw by the name of Teresa Perez and they fell in love.

In August of 1935, Salvador and Teresa had a son who they named Roy. But Roy would not know his Father very long; Salvador died from tuberculosis when Roy was 2. To add to the difficulties, Teresa, Roy’s mother died the same way (tuberculosis) when Roy was 7.

But this family cared for their own. He moved in with his Uncle and Aunt, 8 cousins and his Grandfather.

The Hard Worker

To help support the large family, Roy took on any job that could bring in money. He

  • Worked on various farms
  • Shined shoes
  • And any other temporary jobs he could take

Roy went to school some, but he dropped completely at 15 to support the family.


The year was 1952. The United States was at war in Korea. Roy recognized a way he could su

pport his family and also back the United States. He enlisted in the Texas National Guard.

In 1955, Roy made the decision to go full time and he moved to regular Army. He passed airborne training and was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division. At that point, Roy began training for Army Special Forces.

He also married a woman who would stand behind him, bear him 3 children and be his reason to stay alive.

Roy passed the strenuous requirements and was integrated into the 5th Special Forces Group and Studies And Observations Group.

Roy’s First Visit To Vietnam

In 1965, Roy was deployed to South Vietnam to advise a South Vietnamese Infantry regiment.

Roy would soon be shipped back State-side. While with the unit on a late-night patrol, Roy stepped on a landmine.

The Doc looked at Roy and said, “You will never walk again.”

Roy begged to differ as he looked at the newspapers showing some people burning a U.S. flag and hating on his comrades in arms, never was not an option.

While his superiors were drawing up medical discharge papers, Roy went against all orders and fell out of bed and crawled to the wall. Propping himself up with an audience cheering him on, Roy would attempt to walk… Fall and do it again.

The discharge papers were never filed. In July of 1966, Roy with his wife walked out of the hospital.

After ample recuperation, Roy returned to Vietnam.

You Can’t Do That To My Buddies

“If the story of his heroism were a movie script, you would not believe it” Ronald Reagan

It was early May of 1968 and the radio was chattering. Some of Roy’s buddies were pinned down along with several South Vietnamese tribesmen. Hearing screams for help. No time to grab his rifle, Roy grabbed had his knife and he grabbed all the medical supplies possible…

He boarded a rescue chopper.

When the chopper was above the battle they started taking gun fire. Not being able to land, Roy directed the pilot to a clearing about 75 meters away. Roy then ran through enemy fire getting hit several times.

He directed the soldiers into defensive positions and threw smoke grenades to get extraction. As helicopters were making their way in, Roy went again into enemy fire to the unit’s leader who was dead. He had important papers that could not be lost.

Roy felt the sting of bullets hitting him and then the crash of an extraction chopper.

These pieces of lead would not stop Roy.

After retrieving the papers, Roy raced to the chopper and gathered the survivors into defensive positions.

Giving a “Vince Lombardi” type of talk, Roy Benavidez brought these fighters together into a team of “Don’t &#@$ With Us” killing machines.

Roy called in airstrikes and gave the men water and more ammo.

Keep killing those @$$#*&($ Guys. We’re getting out alive!”

The next chopper landed and Roy made sure every soldier was on board before they dragged his bullet ridden body aboard.

Other posts you may enjoy:

  1. Army Medal of Honor Recipients From The War in Afghanistan
  2. A Brief History of the Congressional Medal of Honor
  3. Military Units Who Have Been Honored With The Congressional Gold Medal
  4. The Army Good Conduct Medal: Everything You Need to Know About It

Roy Deserves But…

When they off-loaded Roy from that extreme battle, it was immediately told to the Commander that Roy had saved 8 lives.

The Commander raced to the medical area and he saw the black bag laid next to this soldier. The tear began to roll down his cheek as he yelled to the medic “Get your ass over here and help Roy!” The medic jumped to attention but when looking upon Roy’s body…

  • 7 gunshot wounds
  • 28+ shrapnel piercings all over his body and head.
  • Bayonet slashes to his arms
  • One of his lungs were destroyed
  • And blood ran from the major bash on his head.

The medic looked at the Commander and shook his head. The Commander bowed his head in anguish until…

“This soldier just spit on me!”

The Commander looked as the medic was wiping his face and Roy was trying to get out of that black bag.

Rushing to his aid, the Commander yelled at the medics to get this man attention, which they did. But the Commander also wondered if Roy would survive.

He deserves the highest award of all, but it takes so long. “I want Roy to see his award before…”

He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

Truth Be Told

Years later and the whole Vietnam struggle was declassified and people saw what Roy had done. Because of time, there was a claim it could not be given.

But if an eyewitness could step forward, they would give the Medal of Honor request more attention.

But it seemed that all were dead and gone, but no…

Brian O’Connor was the radioman on that dreadful day. He told the Army Decorations Board the complete story.

As tears flowed and the amazement that Roy Benavidez still lives and often speaks to youth about the importance of education, the Board agreed that Roy highly deserves the prestigious Medal of Honor.

In February of 1981, President Ronald Reagan put that Medal around the neck of Master Sergeant Roy Benavidez as a crowd rose to their feet in applause.


Roy Benavidez passed away in late 1998.

But Roy is an example of the finest of heroes that have fought for the United States.

I must say, I felt many emotions in researching and writing this piece on a great American soldier and hero.

There was even a G.I. Joe made depicting Roy Benavidez.

I also suggest you read Roy’s book, The Three Wars of Roy Benavidez.

Roy was a great man and a hero who should be remembered forever.

Please leave your thoughts below.

Thank you.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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