Tango Mike Mike

Roy Benavidez’s Story—And Call Sign—Is One For The Ages

Master Sergeant Roy Benavidez

As a kid, I always noticed my buddy’s dads buried in their Lazy-Boy recliners, totally absorbed in watching WWII movies in the rec room, dimly lit only by the flickering glow of the black-and-white TV. I never really understood it until now that I’m the same age as they were then, maybe even older.

Watching brave men doing courageous things makes you appreciate and —in a weird way—motivates you to get off your keister and do something. It reminds you of what it’s like to be in your prime again, when you had endless energy and were invincible yourself. Or at least thought you were.

I’ve always enjoyed reading about the exploits of our men in uniform. Years ago I stumbled across the story of Green Beret MSgt. Roy Benavidez. His exploits are very real, yet still almost unbelievable!

On his first tour in Vietnam he stepped on a land mine and was severely injured from the waist down. Army doctors declared he’d never walk again. They didn’t know Roy Benavidez. Sneaking out of bed at night, crawling on elbows and chin, Roy dragged his body to the nearest wall, where he would shimmy up it, forcing himself to stand. There he’d wiggle his toes, left and right. He did this every night for almost a year, to the cheers of fellow wounded soldiers. Roy wanted to go back to ’Nam.

With medical discharge papers in hand, a doctor told Roy he was finished. Roy pleaded with him until the doctor told him, “Benavidez, you walk out of here, I’ll tear these papers up.” When Roy did walk out, he was transferred back to Ft. Bragg, NC.

Back In Vietnam

During his second tour, on May 2, 1968 at the age of 32, Roy earned his Medal of Honor by performing one of the most heroic feats in military history.

Anyone who has spent anytime monitoring radio chatter quickly learns to recognize stress or desperation in the crackling voices over the airwaves. And that’s what Roy heard.

A small platoon was surrounded and pinned down by enemy small arms fire and was pleading for extraction. Back at base and already injured from an earlier mission, Roy told the pilot he was going with him and— armed with only his knife and medical bag—jumped into the helicopter.

The landing zone was so hot the pilot was forced to hover over it, so Roy jumped 10 feet to the ground and raced 75 meters to the men, being struck by small arms fire and hand grenade fragments almost immediately…

There’s much more to the story but space limits description of what occurred during the 6 hours, which were immortalized. President Ronald Reagan said “ If it were a Hollywood movie script, you wouldn’t believe it,” when describing Roy’s actions during the award ceremony. Here’s the short version: Roy saved eight lives, was shot seven times and stabbed. He killed an adversary in hand-to-hand combat using his knife.

Even today, when Special Forces are involved in a firefight, and things are going badly, or courage needs to be summoned, they call out, “Tango! Mike! Mike!” That was Roy’s radio call sign.

Yvette Benavidez Garcia: Keeping the legend alive.

The Story Told

Recently, I saw Roy Benavidez’s daughter, Yvette Benavidez Garcia, post a picture of her dad throwing out the first pitch at the 1981 World Series on a social media site. Taking advantage, I sent her a note, telling her how much I appreciated her dad and how young kids would benefit from hearing his story about patriotism, honor, duty, dedication and completing the mission.

Yvette told me she had recently written a children’s book about her dad, who passed away in 1998. A 4th grade teacher, Yvette would tell her dad’s story during an assembly at the school she teaches at every Veterans Day. She captured the children’s attention and made note of the same questions that were asked repeatedly over the years.

Her book answers these questions and displays her father’s attributes as not only a decorated soldier, but a successful person as well. Roy always believed education was the key to success.

Yvette’s book, Tango Mike Mike, emphasizes this while telling his story, aimed at 3rd to 7th graders, the most impressionable age.

“I live… by the motto Duty, Honor, Country… Faith, determination and a positive attitude will get you further than ability” is the code Roy Benavidez lived by and shared with those who knew him.

It takes a special man to be able to motivate and inspire beyond the grave and Roy still does that through the words of his daughter.

Do yourself a favor and get a copy. Then share it with your children or grandchildren. Give them the chance to see what the real meaning of “Duty, Honor and Country” really is.

Tango Mike Mike is available through Amazon at
https://www.amazon.com/Tango-Mike-Master-Sergeant-Benavidez/dp/0998911704 Autographed copies for $25 ($30 outside the US) can be requested by emailing [email protected]

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