Legend: The Incredible Story of Green Beret Staff Sergeant Roy Benavidez’s Heroic Mission To Rescue a Special Forces Team Caught Behind Enemy Lines by: Eric Blehm
This review could not start anywhere but the end. The end is all people want to know. The end is the dramatic part. The end is…well…. the end quite frankly. So I have started this most honored to be written blog with the end. There lies not only one of our American Heroes, but the author that wrote about him, and FOR him, seeking the recognition this hero so rightly deserved. This story occurred “behind the wire,” in one of many missions our Special Operations Groups entered into willingly, without second thought. nor with trepidation. The story itself you will find many heroes in, but the focus of this book is SSGT. Benavidez. The power of this book lies in that it is OUR history. One as Americans people take for granted. Right now there are many SOG groups, faceless and nameless, operating on their own to keep us free.
The author cleverly starts with the end as well. Grab your attention. Keep you reading. Skillfully, Mr. Blehm guides you along the path of meeting Roy Benavidez, a young Texan who was a bit wild, a bit rough around the edges, but who ultimately enters the Texas National Guard, but quickly finds he has a knack for the military. The structure and duty lead him to not want to renew his Guard contract but rather to enter the world of the Army’s Paratroopers. Being short in stature, but HUGE in ego, SSGT. Benavidez starts a path that will ultimately place him in Vietnam……twice.
Being rather personable, and good at being a soldier, he is quickly sent to Vietnam with his friends where he learned from many people how to survive the jungle, and also faced his first almost career ending injury. While on patrol in the jungle, SSGT. Benavidez had the misfortune of stepping on a well hidden “Bouncing Betty” land mine, which didn’t detonate properly. Luckily for SSGT. Benavidez, the land mine did not explode where there would have been no remnants of his person, but instead, blasted the flat metal plate at thousands of miles an hour into his back, sending him into what he later “called “The Darkest White.”
“Med-evaced” out of Vietnam, SSGT. Benavidez finds himself in a state of in-between. Told he would never walk again due to a twisted spine, and under threat of a medical discharge from the Army he loved so good, SSGT. Benavidez set about refusing to hear the word “no.” Each night he would roll out of bed and practice trying to stand up, just asking for more time. In he summer of 1966, he walked out of Brooke Army Medical Center, of his own power and was desperate to return to his 82nd Airborne unit at Ft. Bragg. Do to his injuries, he was returned to a desk job, but he had learned from his time in the jungle, “always look for a way out.” This he did daily while filing papers until he forged a few documents and was headed off to Green Beret “Q” school, despite his medical limitations.
Sporting the coveted Green Beret, SSGT. Benavidez longed to get back in the action. While the Army was deciding whether to send him back to Vietnam, (where the mortality of a Special Operator Group or SOG was 100%,) or to South America due to his fluency in Spanish, his friends were being stripped of all identifying information and dropped into Cambodia, the war the President swore we were not in. SSGT. Benavidez was finally told that he would be returning to Vietnam, to a unit on the front line, the hot bed of warfare, but would also be rendezvousing with old friends.
Without spoiling all of the encounters, and so you too will read this incredible man and his teams obstacles, I will not reveal how bad the situation was, but needless to say a small group of operators became cut off and were surrounded and even attempts to quick grab them by helicopter were unsuccessful.
I will say that I could not read this book all in one sitting. The lives and deaths of these brave men were hard to read. Many times I found myself wanting it to be anything but what it was. I wanted to sneak them more ammunition, fix their booboos faster, and I wanted a happy ending. There are no happy endings in war, and the toughest part of this book when you read it is that it is REAL. These brave men did what they did without question, and knowing death may be the only way home.
I rated this book 5 out of 5 stars as it may be one of the best novels you read this year. I recommend it to everyone, as it is our history. Honor those that went and gave all so you can sit and read this review without fear.
**I was given an ARC by Blogging for Books and Penguin Random House in exchange for my honest review of this book.**