A Modern Woman's Perspective On The Kingdom of God on Earth

May 25, 2015

Duty, Honor, Country

     Today is the official celebration of Memorial Day, the day that our country honors those men and women who have died in the service of our country.  It is also a day that we honor all veterans who have selflessly contributed to the safety and protection of our nation.
     The Bible is full of stories of warriors ... Samson, David and Joshua are memorialized as valiant protectors of their people.  And from Isaac Davis, the first officer to be killed in the American Revolutionary War to Nathan Chapman, the first American soldier to be killed in combat in the war in Afghanistan, this nation has seen no shortage of men and women who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the ideals this country stands for.
     As the daughter of a Navy veteran from the Greatest Generation of WWII, I have always been proud of our U.S. military.  As I grew older, I can remember the first time that the undeserved criticism was launched against our Vietnam Veterans.  So, on this celebrated day, I would like to tell you the story of one special soldier from that era.
     You may be unfamiliar with his name and his story, and this post might appear a little longer than usual.  But I promise you it will be worth your while to learn about him.  His name is Roy Benavidez, and he received the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Ronald Reagan in 1981.  Roy's story is not only remarkable for what he accomplished on the battlefield, but for what he accomplished in his life.
     He was born in South Texas, near where I live today; the son of a sharecropper who was orphaned at the age of 10, and who only received a 7th grade education.  But this is no sad story of missed opportunities and potential.  It is a miraculous story of perseverance and commitment that would serve him in unforgettable circumstances.  When President Reagan reflected on his heroism in battle, he remarked, "If this was a movie script, they would never believe it."
     But I want you to hear the story of Master Sergeant Roy P. Benavidez, and read the official recognition from President Ronald Reagan:  The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of the Congress the Medal of Honor to Master Sergeant Roy P. Benavidez, United States Army, Retired for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.  (Here is the story of his gallantry and bravery):

On May 2, 1968, Master Sergeant (then Staff Sergeant) Roy P. Benavidez distinguished himself by a series of daring and extremely valorous actions while assigned to Detachment B-56, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, Republic of Vietnam. On the morning of May 2, 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 antiaircraft 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 crew members 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 cannisters 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 the classified documents on the dead team leader. When he reached the team 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, reinstilling in them a will to live and fight. Facing a build-up of enemy opposition with a beleagured team, Sergeant Benavidez mustered his strength, and began calling in tactical air strikes and directing 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 from behind by an enemy soldier. In the ensuing hand-to-hand combat, he sustained 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.

     President Reagan then finished reading the citation, and turned to speak to MSG Benavidez:  "Sergeant Benavidez, a nation grateful to you, and to all your comrades living and dead, awards you its highest symbol of gratitude for service above and beyond the call of duty, the Congressional Medal of Honor."

     But it is the words of the man himself, that best exemplify the duty and commitment that our U.S. military feels towards their comrades.  Here is a speech given by MSG Benavidez, himself, in 1991:

     I come from a little town called Cuero, Texas.  After the death of my mother and father at an early age, my brother and I were adopted by an aunt and uncle, and we moved to El Campo, TX, about an hour and a half southwest of Houston.  I was raised there, and went to school there.  I worked at odd jobs there; I shined shoes, sold newspapers, picked cotton.  And like a fool, I dropped out of school and ran away from home.  I’m not proud of that.
     I needed to learn a skill.  I needed an education.  My adopted father would tell me, “Son, an education and a diploma are the keys to success. Bad habits and bad company will ruin you.”
     I was too old to go back to school, and didn’t want to return there, so I joined the Texas National Guard.  And I liked what I saw in men in uniform.  I qualified to join the regular Army, and was accepted, where I heard about Airborne.  I heard about that extra pay you get for jumping out of airplanes (audience laughter), so I qualified to go to jump school at Fort Benning, Georgia, but the durn recruiters never told me what the training was like.  For every mistake you make, you do push-ups.  And I can honestly tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that I’m one of the guys who helped put Georgia into South Carolina, doing push-ups.
     Well, I finished my training and got assigned to a well-known unit at Fort Bragg, NC, 82nd Airborne Division.  After awhile, I heard about the Special Forces … you know them as the Green Berets.  I qualified.  We in the Special Forces are trained to operate deep behind enemy lines, living on little or no support at all.  We were trained in 5 specialties; I am trained in three.  I’m trained in Operations and Intelligence, where I learned oceanography, meteorology, photography; I’m an interrogator and I’m a linguist.  I’m trained in light and heavy weapons, and cross-trained schematics.
     I’ve been all over the world:  the Far East, Europe, South and Central America, and two tours in Viet Nam.  I was assigned to Berlin, and I declared one time that I was the only Hispanic American who could speak German with a southern accent…
     In 1965, I was sent to Viet Nam as an advisor to a Vietnamese infantry unit.  After a short period of time there, I stepped on a mine.  I woke up in the Philippine Islands.  I was paralyzed from the waist down.  I was declared to never walk again.  I was transferred to Fort Sam Houston in Texas.  The doctors were initiating my medical discharge papers, but at night, I would slip out of bed and crawl to a wall, using my elbows and my chin.  My back would be killing me and I would be crying, but I’d get to the wall and set myself against the wall, and I’d back myself up against the wall and I’d stand there.  Like Kaw-Liga, the Indian.  I’d stand there and move my toes, right and left, right and left – every single chance I got.  I wanted to walk; I wanted to go back to Viet Nam because of what the news media was saying about us; that our presence wasn’t needed there; and they were burning the flag.  And I saw a lot of other patients coming back, with limbs missing … I wanted to go back; I was determined.  Because I remembered what I was taught in jump school.  That old Master Sergeant would tell me, “Benavidez, quitters never win; and winners never quit.  What are you?” … I’d say, “I’m a winner.”
     And I remembered my Special Forces training and one of the training missions I was on.  I remember that my leader would tell me, “Face [it].  Determination.  Determination and Positive Attitude will carry you further than Ability.  You can do it, Benavidez…   You can do it.”  I never forgot those words.
     So there I was.  At night, I’d slip out of bed; the nurses would catch me sometimes and chew me out.  They would give me a sleeping pill to put me asleep.  They would tell the doctors in the morning.  But I was determined to walk.
     Nine months later, here comes my medical discharge papers.  And I told the doctor, “Doctor, look what I can do.”  He said, “Sergeant, I’m sorry.  Even if you can stand up, you’ll never be able to walk.”  I jumped out of bed, and I stood up right before him; my back was aching, I was crying, and I moved just a little bit.  The doctor said, “Benavidez, if you walk out of this room, I’ll tear your papers up.”  I walked out of that ward… I walked out with a limp and went back to Fort Bragg, NC and began running five or ten miles a day; doing 50 to 100 push-ups; and I made three parachute jumps in one day.  I was physically and mentally ready to go back to Viet Nam.  
     My orders were to go to Central America as an Advisor, but as a non-commissioned officer and knowing some of the good officers in the right places (he said with a smile), my orders were diverted, and I went back to Viet Nam in 1968.
     In the latter part of April, my buddy and I began to gather intelligence information behind enemy lines.  After two days on the ground, my buddy was shot in the eye, the back, and the legs.  Our mission was complete, but I didn’t want to leave my buddy behind.  I called for an extraction helicopter to come and get us out.  They dropped a McGuire line … nothing more than a rope … and we hooked on.  As they lifted us up, those two ropes began twisting and rubbing (nylon ropes will burn).  As we ascended above the canopy of the jungle, those ropes were completely entwined and burning.  As we got close to the helicopter, the soldier sitting in the safety seat saw that those ropes were burning, and lowered himself outside that helicopter and separated those ropes.  That’s Dedication … I will never forget that man.  The enemy was still firing at us, but they never shot us.  
     We landed at a safe spot, and my buddy was taken to the hospital, where he expired a short time later.  I was in another staging area, waiting for assignment, when I heard on the radio something like a popcorn machine.  Then I heard a voice … “Get us outta here!  Get us outta here!  Come get us quick!  ASAP!”  
     I asked the radio operator, “Who are those [guys]?”  He said, “I don’t know.  They haven’t given us a call sign.”  Then I saw some helicopter pilots running to the flight line; scrambling.  I ran right behind them.  We saw a helicopter coming in, and the door gunner was slumped over his weapon.  When the helicopter landed, I unstrapped the door gunner… Michael Craig, 19 years old.  I cradled him in my arms, and his last words were, “My God, my mother and father.”  
     I asked the pilot, “Who are the people on the ground?”  He said, “Hey, it’s that non-commissioned officer that saved your life the other day.  Remember?”  I said, “Leroy Wright”.  Leroy always got picked for top-secret assignments … it was an instant reaction.  I saw a bag of medical supplies, picked it up and went over to my helicopter … and they told me, “You can’t go in there; it’s too hot.”  Little did I know that I was going to spend six hours in hell.  
You heard [President Reagan] read the citation of how I earned the Congressional Medal of Honor.  But he didn’t tell you all that I went through when I engaged in the hand-to-hand combat.  I was hit in the mouth with the butt of the weapon; my jaws were locked.  After my last return to the helicopter, when I was boarded on … I was holding my intestines in my hand.  
     We lifted up.  The helicopter was overloaded; blood was flowing on both sides of the helicopter.  When we landed at our staging area, and started unloading and identifying the dead bodies, they found that I had loaded three dead enemy soldiers in that helicopter … I didn’t want to leave anybody behind (to audience laughter and applause).  My mission was to recover the classified material, and anybody [who] had it – he was on the helicopter.  
     They laid the enemy soldiers on the side, and since I look kind of oriental, they laid me alongside them.  They were inserting the dead into body bags, and I can remember my feet being lifted into a body bag and the sound of that zipper coming up, and I was thinking, “Oh, my God, No! No!”  
     My eyes were shut because I had blood all over my face, which had dried.  And I couldn’t talk because my jaws were locked.  One of my buddies was jumping up and down, doing the Mexican hat dance, and shouting, “That’s Roy!  That’s Roy Benavidez!”  And the doctor said, “I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do for him.”  And that zipper kept coming up!
     I was trying to wiggle around in my own blood, and finally, Jerry made that doctor feel for my heartbeat.  When I felt that hand on my chest, I made the luckiest shot I ever made in my life … I spit in that doctor’s face.  So the doctor said, “I think he’ll make it.”
     I was cleaned up, and put on the helicopter; alongside one of my buddies that I had saved.  We got airborne, and I just said, “Hold on buddy; just hold on.  We’re going to get some medical attention.”  And his grip tightened up on me … and then he let go.
     I said, “Oh, God, why do you put me through this test?  Why?  You have me get these men out, and save that material, and now You take them away from me.  Why?”  And I was crying and moving around so much that the co-pilot thought I was gasping for air.  So he gets out of his seat and grabs his bayonet and is going to do a tracheotomy on me, and I’m about to kick him out of the helicopter … that was just too much for one day!
     We landed at the hospital, and I was wheeled into the operating room.  As I was being lifted to the operating table, I saw this nurse on her hands and knees crying; yelling and asking God, “Why do you do this to these men?  Why?”  I turned just a little bit to my left, and I saw on the other operating table a man who had both legs and both arms missing.  I passed out.  
     I woke up in a ward.  One of my buddies was laying next to me who was so bandaged up, we couldn’t talk.  We used to wiggle our toes to make sure we were still alive.  After a short while, my buddy was transferred from there, and I thought he had died.  I was transferred to Japan. In the medevac plane that I was flying in, we lost two men.  And I remember this nurse kept yelling at me, “Benavidez, you’re not going to die on me.  I’m going to pinch you every time you close your eyes.”
     When I got to Japan and they rolled me into the operating room, the doctor looked at me, and said, “What in the world happened to you?”  I had red and blue spots all over me, and I told him, “That lady kept pinching me up there”.  
     I went back to Fort Sam Houston and I stayed in that hospital for almost a year. I continued with my career and then I was awarded the Congressional Medal.  I was dedicating myself to come and speak to schools and to civic groups; to help anyone that I could help.  My life was spared for a reason, and I hope it has been for a good reason.
     A lot of people call me a hero.  I appreciate that title.  But the real heroes are the ones who gave their lives for this country.  The real heroes are our wives and our mothers.   Above all, the real heroes are the ones who are laying in those hospital beds, disabled for life...
     You know, there is a saying among us veterans … For those who have fought for it, life has a special flavor that the protected will never know.  You have never lived, until you’ve almost died.   And it is us veterans who pray for peace most of all, especially the wounded, because we have to suffer the wounds of war.
     I’m asked hundreds of times, “Would you do it over again?”  (Long pause) … In my 25 years in the military, I feel like I’ve been overpaid for the service to my country.  There will never be enough paper to print the money, or enough gold in Fort Knox, for me to have to keep from doing what I did.  I’m proud to be an American, and even prouder that I’ve been given the privilege to wear the Green Beret.  I live by the motto of Duty, Honor, Country… God Bless America.

     Roy Benavidez died in 1998.  Yes, he was a hero who performed his duties beyond human imagination.  But everyday, in this country, men and women put on the uniform and go to work for this nation.  They may not all serve in far off locations, and their stories may not be as momentous as the one you read today.  But each of them is a hero in my eyes; a person who believes in something greater than themselves and who is willing to put others first.  That is what people do who share honorable qualities.  That is fulfilling the commandment of our Lord to love others as we love ourselves.
     I cannot finish this post without praying that the forces, both physical and spiritual, who are working to defile the nobility and integrity of our military will be unsuccessful.  This nation has a long history of admiration and support for those who protect us, and may it never be disrupted or corrupted.  And thank you to all veterans -- past, present, and future -- who continue to believe in Duty, Honor, and Country.  May God bless you!

Today I am dedicating this post and blog to the memory of Captain John Hardy, USAF, a pilot who was shot down over North Vietnam.  I wore an MIA bracelet bearing his name for years, and it wasn't until around the year 2000, that I discovered that there was a website where you could find out the status of MIA/POW soldiers in the Viet Nam War, that I learned of his fate.  Throughout the years, I had always prayed for him, and hoped he had made it home.  I was devastated to find out that he died in the jungles of that far-off country.  I never knew him, but he was more than a name on a silver bracelet.  In the year 2004, I had the opportunity to visit the Viet Nam War Memorial in Washington D.C., and the impact of that long black marble wall with all those names on it was overwhelming.  I have a pencil rub of his name in the Bible my grandmother gave me, and I will honor his memory for the rest of my life.  Here is his official status as listed on THE WALL, a website devoted to those who gave their lives in that war:  

Captain John Charles Hardy, USAF
Length of service 8 years
His tour began on Jan 15, 1968
Casualty was on Apr 3, 1968
Hostile, died while missing, FIXED WING - CREW
Body was recovered

Ecclesiastes 3:8     "a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace."