A White House spokesman said President Reagan was ”personally concerned” about Mr. Benavidez’s situation, and 10 days later the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Margaret M. Heckler, said the disability reviews would become more ”humane and compassionate.”
Soon afterward, wearing his Medal of Honor, Mr. Benavidez told the House Select Committee on Aging that ”the Administration that put this medal around my neck is curtailing my benefits.”
Mr. Benavidez appealed the termination of assistance to an administrative law judge, who ruled in July 1983 that he should continue receiving payments.
When President Reagan presented Mr. Benavidez with the Medal of Honor, he asked the former sergeant to speak to young people. Mr. Benavidez did, visiting schools to stress the need for the education he never had.
Born in South Texas, the son of a sharecopper, Mr. Benavidez was orphaned as a youngster. He went to live with an uncle, but dropped out of middle school because he was needed to pick sugar beets and cotton. He joined the Army at 19, went to airborne school, then was injured by a land mine in South Vietnam in 1964. Doctors feared he would never walk again, but he recovered and became a Green Beret. He was on his second Vietnam tour when he carried out his rescue mission.
Mr. Benavidez is survived by his wife, Hilaria; a son, Noel; two daughters, Yvette Garcia and Denise Prochazka; a brother, Roger; five stepbrothers, Mike, Eugene, Frank, Nick and Juquin Benavidez; four sisters, Mary Martinez, Lupe Chavez, Helene Vallejo and Eva Campos, and three grandchildren.
Over the years, fellow Texans paid tribute to Mr. Benavidez. Several schools, a National Guard armory and an Army Reserve center were named for him.
But he did not regard himself as someone special.
”The real heroes are the ones who gave their lives for their country,” Mr. Benavidez once said. ”I don’t like to be called a hero. I just did what I was trained to do.”