In a just released book, “Legend,” (www.ericblehm.com) author Eric Blehm recounts the heroism of Green Beret Staff Sergeant Roy Benavidez, of the U.S. Army’s 240th Assault Helicopter Company.
The first part of the book details Roy’s early life from birth until marriage, enlistment, and examples of the his tenacious spirit. In 1966, Roy suffered a serious injury from his first tour in Vietnam, having been told he would never walk again. Yet, a year later after much therapy and willpower, Roy not only regained his ability to walk, but qualified to become an elite Army Green Beret. The 2nd part of the book gives a lot of background into the special operations out of Vietnam and the 240th Assault Helicopter Company, including how the U.S. covertly inserted and removed 12-Man Special Forces A Teams. The last part of the book details the events of May 2, 1968.
Benavidez went into the firefight to bring out the wounded soldiers, part of a team sent into Cambodia. Upon arrival he jumped out and into the withering enemy fire. Despite being immediately and severely wounded, Benavidez reached the perimeter of the decimated team, provided medical care, and proceeded to organize an extraordinary defense and rescue. During the hours-long battle, he was bayoneted, shot, and hit by grenade shrapnel more than thirty times, yet he refused to abandon his efforts until every survivor was out of harm’s way.
Ingrained into his thinking by his grandfather, Benavidez had the attitude “if someone needs help, you help them.”
“He knowingly went into a place of chaos,” Blehm said. “It is obvious it is not the size of the man, but the size of his heart. The story is surreal considering after putting the wounded on the helicopter, he went back to rescue the interpreter, while holding his own intestines. As I recount in the book, he crawled around the seriously wounded, giving tactical orders, took charge of air support, medical aid, ammunition, and boosted the wounded morale.”
He saved the lives of eight men and eventually recovered, receiving the Medal of Honor thirteen years later. He dedicated his life to inspire those in his situation, from humble and difficult beginnings.
A powerful part of the book is when Blehm discusses the treatment of those who fought in Vietnam. The Army told them to be proud of their service and go home to rejoin their family and friends. Telling them, “They are proud of you and are anxiously awaiting your return.” Yet, in direct contradiction Roy was told not to wear his uniform in public. However, Blehm recounts how Roy disobeyed those orders. It was not the veterans who were the “baby killers,” but the North Vietnamese who crucified children to walls and used them as target practice.
“Legend” is a moving story. Through extensive research readers get to know Roy personally and understand that the American soldier had their hands tied by politicians. After reading this book people should realize that there is a great debt owed to those that fought in Vietnam, soldiers who were doing their patriotic duty.