Roy P. Benavidez is a bad ass mother fucker.
On May 2nd, 1968 he spent six hours in hell. He was shot seven times. One time was in the back, and the bullet exited his chest just below his heart. He had 28 pieces of shrapnel in his body and he had been stabbed no less than five times. He also had his jaw broken by the butt of a rifle in hand to hand combat.
This didn’t stop him from pulling out every man he could from an ambushed LZ despite it being overrun by over 1000 enemy soldiers. During the last helicopter flight out, he sat in the back of the Huey with his intestines spilling out on to his hands and his jaw locked shut from the injuries. He passed out when they arrived back at base and was thought to be dead. Some soldiers grabbed him and put him in a body bag. Before the bag was zipped up, a fellow soldier recognized him. That soldier went and got a doctor, and the doctor pronounced Roy DEAD. Roy spit in the doctor’s face and sat up.
He disobeyed orders to put himself in harms way in order to save other men.
He sustained injuries that would have, and should have, killed a man ten times over. Despite all of this, he survived and lived a normally functioning life afterward. So, what is it that makes a man like this keep going? Why does a man live and fight like he is possessed by God and have an indominable will? Do you think anything could have stopped Roy that day? Do you think you would have kept going? Would you have disobeyed an order to save your fellow man?
I wrote a blog a little while ago about courage and purpose, but I think Roy’s story tells us about something more than that. Sure, I think that his incredible sense of purpose and desire to save those around him greatly contributed to his ability to keep moving. I also believe it is what gave him the courage to fight and move through such a horrific situation. But, Roy did not go about and do your ordinary soldiering. He fought as if his strength was drawn outside of himself and it was not until the mission was over that the strength began to subside.
This is the funny thing, I don’t think Roy Benavidez is different than the rest of us. Special he is, but not different. Roy tapped into the connection between mind and body at a level that few of us can understand. The day all of this happened, it wasn’t the first time he did it. Several years before the ‘six hours in hell’, he stepped on a land mine in Vietnam. When he lay in bed in the hospital after a dozen surgeries, he was told he would never walk again and would be discharged from the army after he recuperated from the surgeries. Every night, he would crawl out of his hospital bed and drag himself to a wall by his elbows. Then he would spend hours trying to rehabilitate by leaning against a wall and trying to stand up when he should have been sleeping. He had massive injuries to his legs and back and said it was excruciating to push through all the pain. The only thing Roy knew was that he wanted to go back to Vietnam and continue to fight and he had to be able to walk to do that. On the day the doctor showed up with the discharge papers, Roy jumped up out of bed and walked out of the room. The doctor was shocked and tore the papers up right there. Roy spent the following months running five miles a day along with doing hundreds of pushups and sit-ups after the run. He got better and was sent back to Vietnam.
He fought every day to get better and survive. He never, not once accepted the opinion of others as fact and continued during every step of his warrior’s journey to fight, to tilt and to move forward. No matter how many times Roy got shot, blown up, stabbed or beaten he never, NOT ONCE, thought he was a victim.
He never accepted circumstance or situation as something greater than himself. He never lost the will to live and never thought of himself as anything less than a winner.
That’s really Roy’s lesson for all of us. It’s not about fighting the good fight or leaning forward into the fray of war. It is simpler, yet more difficult to grasp.
Don’t ever think of yourself as a victim.
Don’t ever think the world is more than you can handle, and it won’t be.