After dropping out of high school, Roy Benavidez joined the Texas Army National Guard. By 1965, he moved into the 82nd Airborne Division and was soon deployed to the dangerous jungles of Vietnam. Not long after that, Benavidez stepped on a landmine while advising a group of ARVN soldiers. When he regained consciousness, he found himself in a hospital at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines where doctors declared he'd never walk again.
But this was just the beginning of Benavidez' amazing story.
At night, the Green Beret would crawl out of his hospital bed and back himself up against the wall, attempting to restore sensation in his lower extremities. 7-months later, Benavidez walked out of that hospital and returned to his duties in Vietnam.
After narrowly escaping death on several occasions, he continued to volunteer himself for some of the most deadly operations during his time in the bush. Upon hearing a 12-man, intelligence-gathering mission had come under fierce attack, Benavidez jumped on a helicopter to assist the men.
Master Sgt. Roy Benavidez as he tells his story to an audience.
(Medal of Honor Foundation)
Armed only with a knife and a medical bag, Benavidez ran into the fight with disregard for his own life. He was shot several times, but continued to render aid on his brothers-in-arms. The brave Green Beret carried several wounded and dead soldiers to the extraction point.
During extraction, his helicopter was shot down. Benavidez didn't hesitate. He created a defensive perimeter and prepped a new landing zone. Benavidez continued to fight for six hours — he was shot five times. Finally, a helicopter was able to successfully extract the downed troops. By then, Benavidez was near dead — nearly sacrificing himself for his fellow brothers.
Staff Sgt. Roy Benavidez was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1981 by President Ronal Reagan for his outstanding actions.
In the early 1990s, Master Sgt. Roy Benavidez visited a U.S. Army unit in Cleveland, OH, and delivered one of the most emotional and patriotic poems to a well-received military audience.
"Hello, remember me? Some people call me 'Old Glory,' others call me the Star Spangled Banner. But, whatever they call me, I'm your flag... the flag of the United States of America. Something has been bothering me, so, I thought I'd talk it over with you because it's about me and you. Not too long ago, people were lining up on both sides of the street to see a parade go by, and, naturally, I was leading that parade. Proudly waving in the breeze. And when your daddy saw me coming, he would immediately remove his hat and place it over his left shoulder... so his right hand would be over his heart. And you, you standing there... right next to your dad. You didn't have a hat, and your little sister, not to be outdone was standing right next to you. Both of you had your right hand over your heart.
What has happened now? I don't feel as proud as I used to... I'm still the same ole flag. I see children playing around, shouting. They don't seem to know or care who I am, what I stand for. I saw an elderly gentleman who took his hat off, but when he saw others with theirs on, he turned around and slowly walked away.
Hey, I'm still the same ole flag. A few stars have been added since those parades long ago. A lot of blood has been shed. Is it a sin to be patriotic anymore? Have you forgotten who I am? What I stand for? And where I've been? Anzio, Guadalcanal, Korea, Vietnam. Take a good look one of these days... at the memorial honor roll... of all the names that never came back. They gave their lives for this great nation to be free. Under God. When you salute me, you salute each and every one of them. Well, it won't be long now, and I'll be coming down the street leading the parade and proudly waving in the breeze. So, when you see me coming, stand up straight and salute. And I'll salute you... by waving back. And then I'll know, that you remember."
Check out the video below to listen to one of the bravest men in history deliver his powerful message