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Monday was Memorial Day – a day off work for many and no school for the kids. Even the YMCA was closed, so we all had an excuse to be lazy. And now that Memorial Day is over, our thoughts shift to the approaching summer.
Memorial Day comes and goes, often with very little fanfare, unless you are fortunate enough to live in a city that celebrates the holiday with a large parade.
Many of our citizens proudly displayed the American flag on their houses, and some churches even lined their walkways with flags. But, sadly, very few honored the day in the way it was originally intended. Memorial Day is supposed to be a day to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice during a time of war. After all, that’s what the word "memorial" means: to remember.
In honor of Memorial Day, I would like to share a story with you about a fellow veteran of the Vietnam War, a former Green Beret: Master Sgt. Roy P. Benavidez. Benavidez was a legend among special forces troops. Being an "A-Team" medic, his radio call sign was Tango Mike Mike, from the phonetic alphabet used by the military for the letters TMM (which stood for team medic).
Benavidez served two tours of duty in Vietnam. During his first tour in 1965, he was severely wounded after stepping on a mine. He was hospitalized for more than a year in the United States and told that he would never walk again. But he proved them wrong. He not only walked again, but returned to active duty, volunteering for the Green Berets. After successfully completing Special Forces training, he returned to Vietnam in 1968 and served with the 5th Special Forces Group. It was during this tour that Benavidez would be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
This is the official citation:
"Master Sergeant (then Staff Sergeant) Roy P. Benavidez, United States Army, distinguished himself by a series of daring and extremely valorous actions on 2 May 1968, while assigned to Detachment B56, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, Republic of Vietnam.
"On the morning of 2 May 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 anti-aircraft fire.
"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. 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 canisters 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 of the dead team leader and the classified documents he carried.
"When he reached the leader’s body, 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, Benavidez secured the classified documents and made his way back to the wreckage, where he helped 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, restoring in them a will to live and fight. Facing a buildup of enemy opposition with a beleaguered team, Benavidez mustered his strength, began calling in tactical air strikes and directed 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. Benavidez’ gallant choice to voluntarily join 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.
Benavidez had more than 38 wounds from that battle! For years, the distress call sign for future Special Forces teams became 'Send Tango Mike Mike!' It meant 'Send That Mean Mexican!' When that call went out, it meant a team was in trouble and needed rescue."
Jesus told his disciples (John 15:13) “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
The apostle Peter wrote (1 Peter 2:4-5) “As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by men, but chosen by God and precious to him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
On Memorial Day, I was again “reminded” that we, who claim to be Christian, are called to offer our lives as a sacrifice – to sacrifice our lives to serving the kingdom of Jesus Christ!
I think the church in America is in serious need of some “Tango Mike Mikes!” There are many in our communities who are in desperate need of rescue from the bondage of sin. They are hurting and wounded and “crying out for help!”
We need some bold Christian men and women who are not afraid to lay down their lives – not just sit in their churches, but get in the trenches and do battle with the enemy – Satan.