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South San Antonio To Honor
Medal of Honor Recipient Benavidez
By Sig Christenson Express-News Military Writer
Famed Medal of Honor recipient Roy P. Benavidez dropped out of middle school, but he later earned his high school diploma and an associate's degree while carving out a career in the Army. At 9 a.m. Saturday, educators in the South San Antonio School District will honor him by dedicating a new elementary school in his honor.
Former Mayor Howard Peak said the ceremony shows that people haven't forgotten Benavidez, a junior high dropout who became an Army legend.
“He's not just a hero, but he's a hometown hero. And our community ought to keep him in mind for what he did for us,” Peak said. “The trouble is that over time people tend to forget as their mind is preoccupied by other things, the day-to-day events in our lives, but we've got to remember people like Sgt. Benavidez and other people who have done so much to make possible what we do today.”
Benavidez has become an icon since his death four years ago at age 63 in San Antonio, with schools, parks and military facilities around the nation named in his honor.
He was three months into his second tour of Vietnam when, on May 2, 1968, a North Vietnamese regiment surrounded a dozen soldiers from his unit during a secret mission to Cambodia. Benavidez suffered wounds to the right leg, face and head while charging through heavy enemy fire, shifted team leaders so they could give cover to the helicopters, carried wounded GIs to nearby aircraft and retrieved classified documents from a dead team leader.
He carried the battle to the enemy even as fire intensified, setting up a defense perimeter, calling in airstrikes, directing fire from buzzing helicopters and giving first aid. Shot, clubbed and stabbed, he later spat into a doctor's face to keep from being written off as dead.
Benavidez was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross from Gen. William Westmoreland, and he received the Medal of Honor from President Reagan in 1981. He spent years as a motivational speaker and was known for urging kids to stay in school.
At Saturday's ceremony, state Rep. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, will be joined by Benavidez's wife, two daughters and son, Noel, a brother and the school's principal, Alicia Olvera.
They'll mark a moment of silence for Medal of Honor recipient Louis Richard Rocco, who was buried near Benavidez earlier this week at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.
“It's a surprise, but we're glad it happening,” Noel Benavidez, a Houston computer network engineer, said of the school being named for his dad. “And, of course, it's somewhat of an honor to be because that's where I was born, at Fort Sam.”
Roy P. Benavidez Elementary School, at 8340 S. Interstate 35, is home to 750 students and replaces an older campus that is now used as an alternative school. One of 18 schools in the district, it was built after approval of a $35 million bond election in 1999, South San spokesman Ed Suarez said.
Retired Army Sgt. Maj. Benito Guerrero said he'll talk about a subject that was near and dear to his old friend — education.
“If he was here today, that's what he would talk about,” Guerrero said. “He always said it is better to supervise the digging of the ditch than to dig it.”
© 2002, by KENS5 News
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